SEAMERS ABID Khan and Rohit Chaudhury had to do overtime at the nets on Friday as they had to bowl skipper Mohd Kaif, who joined the five-day UP Ranji Trophy camp soon after its ending, at the Gomti Nagar Stadium here.
Team India discard Kaif was quick to say that Uttar Pradesh despite having eight points in four matches so far was still in contention for a place in the knock-out.
"Even if we get three points in the next match against Bengal, it would be helpful for making it to the knock-out," said the right-hand batsman soon after finishing his stint at the nets on Friday.
Besides taking on last year's runners-up Bengal in the fifth round match of the Elite Group 'B' from December 17 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh would be playing their last league match against Hyderabad from December 25 at Hyderabad.
"Undoubtedly, the next two matches are very crucial. But we are committed for a better show against both the rivals," said Kaif, adding, "The boys have to live upto the expectations to make it to the knock-out."
When asked for his own analysis of UP's pathetic showing in the last three matches after scoring an outright win against Orissa in the opening match of the season, Kaif didn't blame the batsmen totally, but accepted that besides him and Suresh Raina, other batsmen in the teams had to play positive roles.
"During the last few years during my tenure, I find that our batting has improved a lot and we are getting 400 plus runs in almost all the matches. But the other specialists batsmen will also have to contribute to ensure team's victory."
Kaif, who enjoyed a good kite flying session after the net session on the final day of the camp, accepted that his cause of worry was the lack of experienced bowlers in the team. "Absence of experienced seamers Shalabh Srivastava, Ashish Winston Zaidi and Rudra Pratap Singh did make a big difference to our performance this season. But at the same time it's a big opportunity for the youngsters to establish themselves in the team with their performances."
"Most of the young bowlers are new to the Ranji Trophy cricket, and they need experience. And I am confident within a season or two, they would be able to learn the art of bowling at the top level," added Kaif.
All-rounder Praveen Kumar was the other key player after Kaif, who joined the camp on its final day on Saturday. The lanky right-arm seamer had a good two-hour session at the nets, where he drew the attention of many with his hard-hitting batting and swinging deliveries.