As much as it about the expertise with the bat or ball, cricket is also a mind game which teams play before the real contest on the field.
Defending Ranji champions Rajasthan know this and didn’t shy away from firing an opening salvo on the eve of their quarterfinal match against Hyderabad.
"We dismissed them for just 21, which was a step towards our becoming the champions," said Rajasthan skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
Hyderabad were relegated to the Plate Division in the last season, but have done well to qualify for the Elite Group again, courtesy some gutsy performances by the players and new coach Sunil Joshi.
However, the man who led Rajasthan to that victory, by taking eight wickets, is not a part of the squad this time. Medium pacer Deepak Chahar, who grabbed the spotlight last season with his devastating spell against Hyderabad, is down with jaundice.
Chahar is not the only key player missing from the visitors’ ranks. Middle order batsman Ashok Menaria is out with hernia. But Kanitkar felt the replacements had done well. “Puneet Yadav, who played in place of Menaria, scored a half century followed by a ton and pacers Rituraj Singh and Sumit Mathur have also performed well,” said the skipper.
It seems that batsmen are going to play a big role at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, as the pitch has a dry look to it. “The pitch will help the batsmen and later on the spinners might come into play,” said Kanitkar.
Apart from Kanitkar, Rajasthan can rely on the batting prowess of veterans like Rashmi Ranjan Parida, Akash Chopra and the young Robin Bisht, who is currently the leading run scorer with 829 runs in seven games.
Hyderabad have done well this season with two big wins in the league stages. For the hosts, P Akshath Reddy has three centuries under his belt while Syed Ahmed Quadri has responded with both the bat and ball whenever his team has faced a crisis.