In the biggest upset of the Vijay Hazare Trophy this season, Jammu & Kashmir upstaged a strong Rajasthan, featuring three current India players, in an Elite Group C match here on Friday.
What made the achievement enormous was the challenges the team had to face, logistically and psychologically, before coming into the tournament. With the communication lines severely affected due to the prevailing political situation, the preparatory camp was a non-starter and the team could not even train for a month. It also had to pull out of the Vizzy Trophy.
The J&K cricket association had to issue an advertisement in a local TV channel to get all the players to Jammu. From there, they went to Baroda, the hometown of former India all-rounder and J&K mentor Irfan Pathan. The team had a two-week camp in Baroda before landing in Jaipur.
Pathan, delighted by the result against Rajasthan, said: “It is fantastic to beat a side with three Indian players. I want the players to believe in themselves and want them to look ahead with confidence. This is just one win and we need consistency.
“Whatever time we have lost is lost. We can’t do anything. But we have to make the best of the situation. I want J&K to start winning and not just compete.”
On Friday, it was a complete team effort as Shubham Khajuria (94), Shubham Singh Pundir (96 not out) and Qamran Iqbal (60) came up with solid contributions. With the ball, experienced pacer Ram Dayal led from the front with a four-wicket haul, the wicket of Mahipal Lomror who top-scored with 88 being the most crucial.
He was supported by skipper Parvez Rasool, who kept the Rajasthan batsmen on a leash in the middle overs (one for 38). Young left-arm spinner Abid Mushtaq, too, chipped in, picking up two wickets in an over to turn the contest on its head.
On the challenges of handling the players considering the situation back home, Pathan said, “I keep making sure they are enjoying the time they spend here as much as possible. This is like their second family and I make sure they enjoy each other’s company. We have team-building activities and sometimes we don’t even talk about cricket.
“I have one-to-one sessions with them regularly because they react to it very well. We make sure we build a team together but at the same time keep working individually. Sometimes I let them come to me and at times I go to them.”
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