Slow tracks and ugly battles have been the story of Indian cricket this season. As Railways look to pick up the pieces after starting the Ranji season with two heavy defeats they won't read too much into home advantage as they face champions Rajasthan in the Super League Group A tie starting on Thursday.
Both teams were paired against their toughest opponents, Mumbai and Karnataka, in the initial two games and how they fared should dictate their level of confidence going into the game. Railways were at home for both matches but the sluggish Karnail Singh stadium pitch definitely did not help their cause as they were handed an innings defeat by Karnataka after a 10-wicket defeat against Mumbai.
Skipper Sanjay Bangar is hopeful his team can put the reverses behind them and get their first points of the season.
However, the former India opener knows only too well that the conditions won't make life easy for his batsmen.
“It is not a free-scoring ground, the ball never really comes on to the bat,” he said. “It doesn't help play pleasing cricket, it will be grinding cricket as usual."
Rajasthan, who went from Plate to podium last season, are finding how tough it is to maintain that sort of momentum, although they collected a point apiece after conceding the first innings lead in drawn encounters against Karnataka and Mumbai.
However, they will miss skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who hit 141 against Mumbai last week but suffered a right shoulder injury while fielding. Aakash Chopra, who will lead the side, is hoping his team collects maximum points against rivals who are down and out.
"This is a ground that throws up results," Chopra said, but the former India opener also would have preferred a pitch that behaves better than how the one at his original home base, Ferozshah Kotla, did in the first Test against West Indies.
“The quality of cricket we play and cricketers we produce is directly proportionate to the quality of surfaces we play on," he said. But domestic teams can't worry too much about the quality of cricket they would get to play. More important would be a win that would kick off Rajasthan's campaign in earnest.