The picturesque surroundings of the Jamia Millia Sports Complex ground are quite enticing. A lush outfield and polished stands colour the venue. The warm sunshine on a winter evening adds a degree of pleasantness.
The sentiment within the Railways camp mirrors the amiability of its home ground. Twenty points from five matches has placed Railways second in group B. The Murali Kartik-led side would almost confirm qualification to the quarterfinals if it defeats Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy match beginning here on Saturday.
But it’s a possibility one would do well to deflect currently. The track here is at odds with the welcoming attributes of this ground. Railways has already been involved in two drawn matches at the JMSC this season; only 45 wickets fell on the eight days of play.
The pitch sported a verdant covering on Friday but the host’s coach Abhay Sharma believed that one should not read too much into the track. Neither is he worried about its nature, he says. Such self-assuredness flows from his charges’ impressive performances.
The middle-order trio of Nitin Bhille (398 runs at 79.60), Arindam Ghosh (374 at 62.33) and wicketkeeper Mahesh Rawat (396 at 56.57) has lent a stability the openers have failed to provide while medium-pacers Anureet Singh (23 wickets at 18.08) and Ranjit Mali (17 at 13.17) have threatened endlessly.
Tamil Nadu, though, lies six points behind its latest opponent in fourth place. A nine-wicket win over Baroda in the previous round was a welcome divergence from draws in the first four games but questions over the efficacy of the side’s bowling unit remain.
Last week, in Chennai, TN fielded three spinners in Aushik Srinivas, Malolan Rangarajan and Rahil Shah.
Certainly, the conditions here would force a change in the eleven.
Medium-pacer J. Kaushik would seem to be the obvious choice to join L. Balaji and Aswin Crist in attack.
Whether TN decides to field five bowlers, though, is far from certain. However, one suspects that the visitor would require a bowling quintet to force an outright win here.
S. Badrinath is available after missing the previous match due to viral fever; the veteran is likely to replace B. Indrajith.
The squads (from): Railways: Murali Kartik (captain), Shivkant Shukla, Karn Sharma, Nitin Bhille, Harshad Rawle, Arindam Ghosh, Mahesh Rawat, Jonathan Rongsen, Anureet Singh, Krishnakant Upadhyaya, Ranjit Mali, Ashish Yadav, V. Cheluvaraj, Shailender Gehlot, Amit Paunikar, Hardik Rathod.
Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (captain), S. Badrinath, Abhinav Mukund, B. Aparajith, R. Prasanna, Dinesh Karthik, K.B. Arun Karthick, B. Indrajith, Vijay Shankar, Malolan Rangarajan, R. Aushik Srinivas, J. Kaushik, Rahil Shah, M. Mohammed.