Railways won't be overawed by Tendulkar's Mumbai
The Railways team which is used to starting its cricket season on placid tracks of Karnail Singh stadium in front of hardly any spectators is in for a surprise in their season opener. Due to the lack of adequate first-class facilities none of the matches played by Railways on its home ground was ever televised, thereby denying the limelight to some of the deserving players.
However this season will ensure that the attention of the entire cricket loving fraternity of our country would be on the match between Railways and Mumbai at Wankhede Stadium starting on Friday. This would not be because of a newfound love for Railways but solely for the reason that the finest craftsmen ever to play the game of cricket will be playing the match to get his rhythm back. Yes, the nation will be watching how Sachin Tendulkar faces up against the underdog Railways team.
As I understand it, usually Mumbai plays most of its Ranji Trophy matches at it its Bandra-Kurla Complex ground but owing to Tendulkar's presence the match is being played at the Wankhede. Most likely it will be a televised event and there would be a large number of media personnel to pass judgment on the form of the great man. Not to forget that another of India's consistent performers, Zaheer Khan, will also be playing the match but such is the aura of Sachin that all other stars seem to be nonexistent in his presence.
On the backdrop of such a stage, it's going to be a huge challenge for a young Railways team to make its presence felt. As much as it is a challenge, it is also a huge opportunity for some fast bowlers. It is a known fact in cricketing circles that Sachin, or for that matter senior players of the Indian team, are always eager to promote bowlers who can bowl with pace. A few of examples that come to my mind are Munaf Patel, Salil Ankola, Abey Kuruvilla and Vivek Razdan who were fast-tracked into international cricket more for their ability to bowl fast. We definitely have some special talent in this category and it would be very interesting to see how they cope up with the pressure of performance and media attention.
Apart from this special angle to the match, there are also other quality performers on either side. Zaheer, Ajit Agarkar and Dhaval Kulkarni will form an excellent bowling group for Mumbai. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma will also try to begin the season with a bang. For Railways, our young batsman will be tested on seaming conditions and most of the players are adapting to the conditions pretty well for over the last ten days that we have spent in Mumbai.
Shivakant Shukla, Nitin Bille and Mahesh Rawat are surely our players for the future. We are also fortunate to have a fit and raring to go Murali Kartik who has always delivered blockbuster performances at the Wankhede. Whether be it bowling India to victory against Australia in a Test and ODI or getting a nine-wicket haul for Rest of India in the Irani Trophy, the Wankhede strip has always suited his style of bowling. On a personal front, having played a lot of cricket in Mumbai, a match against them has always been an opportunity to make one's stock more credible.
Apart from the exciting contest, a few events off the field have taken place revolving our team. We sadly lost one of our valued colleagues, Raja Ali, who died of a cardiac arrest in Bhopal recently. Raja was a gutsy player who helped the team overcome challenging situations. He was a sincere and a humble person and we kept in touch after he stopped playing. His friendship with JP Yadav was well known and it was ironic that he had his last supper with his beloved friend. I pray to the Almighty to give strength to his family to bear with his untimely death.
Another one of our colleague, Yere Goud has recently announced his retirement from first-class cricket after over a decade of outstanding service to Railways. He was one of our batting pillars and was unlucky not to have won the India cap. His integrity and commitment was outstanding and he is a role model for any upcoming cricketer. Yere will be an asset to any field that he undertakes in future.
More about Sanjay Bangar
One of the most experienced active cricketers on the first-class circuit, Sanjay Bangar is a two-time Ranji Trophy – in 2001-02 and in 2004-05, when he led the side – and Irani Trophy winner with Railways. He played 12 Tests and 15 ODIs for India and was part of famous victories from 2001-2003.
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