Punjab’s Jiwanjot Singh and Mandeep Singh and Saurashtra’s Sheldon Jackson and Arpit Vasavada have emerged with stellar displays with the bat in the Ranji Trophy so far and will look forward to excelling in the five-day semifinal here from Wednesday.
Both teams have done well to reach this stage of the competition and their respective captains Jaydev Shah and Harbhajan Singh offered interesting observations at the Khanderi Village here on Tuesday.
Harbhajan paid rich compliments to his team for its positive attitude and self belief, and said he was thoroughly enjoying his role as skipper.
“It’s good to be in the reckoning for the title. “The youngsters have done well throughout the season. Everyone thinks they can win the trophy.
“Earlier, this self-belief was missing, but this time it is different. All 11 think we can lift the trophy and also believe they can play for India, so the attitude has changed. I’ve enjoyed playing and working with them. It is going to be a challenge and we’ll be up for it.”
The home team captain always enters the field on an optimistic note. “Cricket is a game of surprises; no one thought Services would beat Uttar Pradesh. We need to start well, and everyone has to work as a team,” said Shah, hoping that a turning track will benefit his team more than Punjab.
The semifinal will be played on the same pitch as the first India-England One-Day International, which produced over 600 runs, but Saurashtra has, in the recent past, under-prepared pitches that aid square turn and unpredictable bounce.
Opener Jiwanjot Singh has had a sensational start to his first-class career, amassing 916 runs with five centuries, while Uday Kaul (614, 3x100), Mandeep Singh (542, 1x100), Ravi Inder Singh (292, 3x50), Karan Goel (358, 1x50, 1x100) and Amitoze Singh (333, 4x50) have also chipped in.
Yuvraj Singh made 170 in his only appearance and Taruwar Kohli cracked an unbeaten 300 in his first match of the season against Jharkhand in the quarterfinals.
Saurashtra will be without Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored a career-high 352 against Karnataka last week, and Ravindra Jadeja. “We’ve to learn to play without Pujara and Jadeja. They’re on National duty, which is obviously a great sign for Saurashtra cricket, but the youngsters (Sheldon and Arpit) are willing to step up. We are ready for this game,” said Shah.
Saurashtra will be aiming to avenge its eight-wicket defeat against Punjab in a league match played at Mohali last November.
The teams (from):
Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (capt.), Chirag Pathak, Sagar Jogiyani, Sitanshu Kotak, Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, Rahul Dave, Kamlesh Makwana, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Vishal Joshi, Sandip Maniar, Jaydev Unadkat, Siddharth Trivedi, Saurya Sanandiya, Harsh Anghan.
Punjab: Harbhajan Singh (capt.), Jiwanjot Singh, Ravi Inder Singh, Taruwar Kohli, Mandeep Singh, Amitoze Singh, Gurkeerat Singh, Uday Kaul, Siddharth Kaul, Sarabjit Ladda, Karan Goel, Bipul Sharma, Rajwinder Singh, Manpreet Grewal, Sandeep Sharma, Baltej Singh.