Their ‘on-field’ co-ordination is something all opposition teams admire. It’s this strength that has kept Mohammad Kaif and his team in the reckoning in the domestic circuit since their maiden Ranji Trophy win in 2005-06.
A humiliating 185-run defeat in the season opener against Karnataka have turned them into a bunch of wounded lions, and now they want to turn the tables in the Ranji semifinal.
On match eve UP appeared more confident and vowed not to repeat earlier mistakes. UP dropped catches of Rahul Dravid and Manish Pandey in the first match, and this came back to haunt them.
“We are committed not to repeat those mistakes. We chased 400-plus on this ground last season to take the first-innings lead,” said UP coach Gyanendra Pandey.
While the UP batting is strong, the bowling combination, led by Rudra Pratap Singh and Praveen Kumar, could also worry Karnataka. They will share the new ball, backed up by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, while leggie Piyush Chawla and Praveen Gupta will shoulder the spin burden.
There was, however, a bit of confusion about the pitch earmarked for the match. “We still don’t know which wicket we will be playing on,” said Kaif. “One expects such things at a smaller centre, but I didn’t expect it at a Test centre. Anyway, it doesn’t bother us because we have played here before and we know what to expect. It usually becomes slow and low as the match progresses. There are cracks and it will be interesting to see how they are affected by wear and tear.”
Kaif conceded that there were lessons from the Meerut loss. “We didn’t know much about some of their players, like Pandey. Now, we have had an opportunity to watch them in a match situation and have seen videos.”
Karnataka skipper Dravid also thought the pitch deserved closer attention. “Normally, we have tried a 3-1 combination this season, but this wicket looks a bit different,” said Dravid.
“We have enough options and a final call will be taken in the morning. In Meerut UP were caught a little cold by some of the younger boys. They hadn’t seen them before and didn’t know what to expect,” said Dravid.
“Now I think they will be better prepared and more aware of what we have to offer. We respect them, they are very professional and disciplined,” he added.