Just consider these sights at the Hyderabad Ranji Trophy squad nets at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium (Uppal). Nandlal Arjun Yadav facing the ‘bowling machine' handled by former international and fielding coach Noel David. India left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, though not a member of the Ranji squad as he will be on national duty for the early part of the season, too was at the nets sharing his moments of joy and experiences with his Hyderabad teammates. Former India star and chief coach of Hyderabad S. L. Venkatapathi Raju keeping a close eye on the bowlers even while saying words of encouragement for the others who are lined up to bat.
These scenes not surprising given the fact that Hyderabad which had the ignominy of being relegated to the Plate Group from the Elite Group in the Ranji Trophy last season has a daunting task ahead this year when it begins its campaign from November 1 with the first two-away matches before coming back to the city.
Unlike many who harp on the gloomy side of Hyderabad cricket after the relegation, Raju reiterates that this team is not as bad as the relegation would suggest. “There is abundance of talent and it was unfortunate that we failed to click as a unit in crunch situations last season. But I can tell you that this team is capable of producing far better results in the Ranji season this time around,” says the confident coach.
Apparently, keen to see that the boys are in the right frame of mind – physically and mentally, Raju quite naturally opted for a preparatory camp ahead of the season opener.
“Fortunately, we have been seeing most of them in action either in the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup or the Senior Zonals. We are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each one of them and we are keen to work on them for the desired improvement,” he explains.
Quite expectedly, Hyderabad fans too expect a turn-around in the fortunes of the Ranji squad which has a new captain in dashing opener D. B. Ravi Teja.
The focus is clearly on keeping things simple. Perform to your potential without trying to be too flamboyant and this should see the team through, believes the support staff.
With Venugopal, who played schools cricket along with V. V. S. Laxman in early 90s, donning the role of video analyst to near perfection, Raju has the liberty to explain the technicalities to the players – both in bowling and batting – with far more ease and authority.
With Noel David, himself an extraordinary fielder during his playing days, as the fielding coach, the stylish bat of yesteryears Vivek Jaisimha as the batting coach, former Ranji star Gajanan Reddy (trainer) and physio Madhanagopal there is no dearth of experience in the support staff.
All that the Hyderabadis hope is for the much desired performances on the field. “Consistency is the key for any successful team and I am very optimistic of a very bright season ahead,” says Raju.
Unlike many critics, Raju is in the mood to look at the positives even in this relegation to Plate Group. For if Hyderabad comes off with special performances and goes on to enter the Plate finals, it will gain a place in the Ranji Trophy knock-out straight away. So the emphasis at the camp will be to drill the brighter side of the sport than mulling over the past which has been forgetful.
“This should be the winning team picture at the end of the season,” Raju quipped even as the players assembled for a group picture at the start of the preparatory camp.
Perhaps, the former India left-arm spinner was trying to be symbolic to serve a gentle reminder of the immense potential and the need to translate that into performances. Who knows? Anything can happen.