| Odisha’s leading wicket-taker Basant Mohanty in action during a Ranji match at Cuttack’s Barabati Stadium this season. Picture by Badrika ath Das |
Bhubaneswar, Nov. 29: The Odisha cricket team is now the joint leader in Ranji Group B by posting back-to-back wins in the last two weeks. In the process, the team also broke a four-year-old jinx.
Before these victories, it was in November 2008 when Odisha last won a Ranji Trophy match.
Now, expectations are running high among cricket fans with these successive wins, which included a victory against one of the strongest opponents, Karnataka. Now, the fans want to see the state team reach the quarter-final stages of the Ranji Trophy tournament.
“We had never thought that our team would be able to win two matches in a row. The team had slipped to the plate group last year, and even this year, it started its journey on a dismal note. The first match against Tamil Nadu was washed out. This was followed by an embarrassing defeat in the match against Delhi. But after that, the team performed really well. We hope this time we make it to the quarter-finals,” said Alexander Ekka, a cricket fan in Bhubaneswar.
Though the players managed to control their nerves in the matches against Haryana and Karnataka, the team’s batting is yet to click.
Apart from Biplab Samantray, no other batsman has been able to score runs, which will put immense pressure on the team for the remaining four matches of the season.
However, coach Debashis Mohanty said that the batting form was not a major concern as all the matches played so far were low-scoring affairs.
“Both the matches in which we sealed victories were low-scoring affairs. So, it is unfair to hope that our batsmen will score hundreds in bowler-friendly conditions. Having said that, we are trying to do better on the batting side, too,” said Mohanty.
The state team has been able to deliver in the bowling department. Both the pacers — Basant Mohanty and Alok Mangaraj — are in great form by bagging 17 and 11 wickets, respectively, so far.
Former coach of Odisha senior cricket team Abakash Khatua said the team needed to cash in on the opportunity to make it to the quarter-final stage.
“Though we will play three out of the four remaining matches in home conditions, we need to play really good cricket to make it to the next level. The chances will become brighter if we secure an outright win either against Maharashtra or Vidarbha,” said Khatua.
Odisha will play their remaining four matches against Baroda, Uttar Pradesh, Vidarbha and Maharashtra. The next match will begin from December 1 against Maharashtra at the Veer Surendra Sai stadium in Sambalpur.