SRINAGAR: For any sports team to be in “nothing-to-lose” frame of mind is a luxury only if dealt with caution and common sense. And, Jammu and Kashmir cricket team are very much in the same league in the build up to their most important game in last six decades: Ranji Trophy 2013-14 quarter final tie against strong Punjab side.
Starting the season as also-rans, J&K find themselves in the knockout stages—the surge essayed by unprecedented show from the players to have their journey bracketed as the “story of the season” thus far. And, from underdogs, Parvez Rasool-led side could well have a shot at major silverware in Indian domestic cricket.
A threesome pace battery, an aggressive opener, a decent wicketkeeper batsman, a quality spinner who averages impressive 50 runs per innings with the bat, and ever contributing lower middle order have knitted J&K into a winning combination.
Now, all the attention shifts to their last eight encounter against Punjab who eked out a place into the knockouts with relatively quiet show considering the bunch of players it has in the squad. During its fixtures in Group C, J&K had to face relatively weaker sides, and to find themselves up against one time Ranji Trophy winner won’t be an easy affair.
For any cricket team playing against the team that boasts of international players like ace spinner Harbhajan Singh and dashing Yuvraj Singh in the lineup will be a stern test. The duo might not have been in best of touches with Yuvraj having quiet returns with the bat and Harbhajan making a comeback after nursing a shoulder injury. But it would silly on J&K’s part to underestimate them, for they have the class and skill level to dent any opposition.
What would give J&K feel good about scenario is the fact they go into the game as underdogs and all the pressure would be on Punjab to overcome the challenge.
Reports suggest that Motibaugh-venue for the game-pitch has a tinge of grass on it which will have in-form J&K pacers—Samiullah Beigh, Ram Dayal, and Mudasir Gujree—licking their lips. The bouncy pitch means J&K relinquish a spinner’s spot (Wasim Raza) for a young pacer Umar Nazir. Punjab can easily claim to have the arsenal to make the ball talk on the ‘result-oriented deck’ having Manpreet Gony, Siddarth Koul and Rajwinder Singh in their ranks.
Last time, a first class game was played at Motibaugh, it turned out to be a spinners’ paradise, and that is where a real battle between the two sides start. Punjab has a world class offie in their skipper Harbhajan and his opposite number Parvez could well be deemed as young prodigy, having made many a batsman dance to his guile and variations. It would be advantage (a big one) to Punjab in this contest as J&K batsmen have traditionally struggled against spin and Harbhajan would be aware of that.
There is no doubt that Punjab are a batting heavy side, powered by the presence of Yuvraj, talented Mandeep Singh and Jiwanjot Singh, and for J&K to match that their top order needs to come good. Adil Reshi and Parvez Rasool will again be looked upon for the runs and solid contributions are needed from Ian Dev Singh, Bandeep Singh, Hardeep Singh and woefully out of form and under pressure Majid Dar.
For J&K to edge past Punjab, they need to play to their strengths and back their pacers to have better off opponents on a deck conducive for fast bowling. And, hope Parvez’s spins his magic yet again.
Harbhajan and his troops will have different things in mind and would believe they have the men and skill level to down on a roll J&K side.
Jammu and Kashmir (Possible XI): Parvez Rasool (C), Adil Reshi, Obaid Haroon (WK), ID Singh, Bandeep Singh, Majid Dar, Hardeep Singh, Samiullah Beigh, Mudasir Gujree, Ram Dayal and Umar Nazir