Punjab looks overwhelming favourite against Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal match at the picture post-card pretty Motibaugh Ground here from Wednesday.
Sceptics suspect the game won’t last the stipulated five days, but there is an understated confidence to Kashmir captain Parvez Rasool’s view of the impending contest.
“Morale is high before our first five-day game, which may stretch to six too, as the rules now allow. The form that led to our qualifying will, God willing, continue. It should prepare us to take on good sides like Punjab when we play in the elite section next season,” he said.
“My inclusion in the Indian team has boosted motivation. With no injury worries, everyone is in fine touch and each has contributed to the campaign, three of our bowlers with bags of over 20 wickets thus far,” said the Kashmir skipper.
Not averse to a reality check though, when taking on a team boasting many former India players, he added, “Competition is bound to be tougher at the higher levels, but we aren’t thinking too much about it.”
On the pitch, known to send teams tumbling, he said it could favour the pacemen, available in ample number in both teams.
His counterpart Harbhajan Singh said he had never played here but going by what he had heard, the wicket, with a lot of carry, would support the seamers his side is stocked with.
He wouldn’t overload the speedsters more though, such as V.R.V. Singh, returning after back surgery. Describing the five-day fixture as a different ball game, he said, “Kashmir should be a good side, having come this far. Cricket’s a funny game and anything can happen,” the off-spinner observed.
“To win is our top priority and I’m keen to contribute to the cause. Every game is an opportunity and I’ve done well so far. I’ll keep knocking on the door to get there,” he added, alluding to his ambition to return to the game’s highest levels. He heaped praise on Sandeep Sharma, Jiwanjot Singh and Manan Vohra as youngsters with plenty of potential.
The teams (from):
Jammu & Kashmir: Parvez Rasool (captain), Samiullah Beigh, Adil Rishi, Aditya Jamwal, Bandeep Singh, Hardeep Singh, Ian Dev Singh, M. Dar, Manik Gupta, Mohammad Mudhasir, Obaid Haroon (wk), Owais Shah, Ram Dayal, Sajad Sofi, Shubham Khajuria, Umar Mir, Waseem Raza.
Punjab: Harbhajan Singh (captain), Yuvraj Singh, Manpreet Gony, V.R.V. Singh, Gitansh Khera, Gurkeerat Singh, Jaskarandeep Buttar, Jiwanjot Singh, Manan Vohra, Mandeep Singh, Rajwinder Singh, Sandeep Sharma, Uday Kaul (wicket-keeper), Vinay Choudhary, Ravi Inder Singh.