PAYING EXCESSIVE attention to young blood went against the defending champions, Uttar Pradesh, in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season.
Lack of team composition, especially the opening pair, lack of experience and poor batting display by the middle order, etc. have led to the Uttar Pradesh cutting a sorry figure.
Mere two points in three matches indicates the tardy progress of the champions team. It's a wake-up call for the team management and skipper Mohd Kaif to sit together and draw the strategy once again, if they intend to remain in contention for a repeat of last season's performance. The presence of Team India stars Mohd Kaif, Suresh Raina, Rudra Pratap Singh and Piyush Chawla didn't make much difference to the side at the crucial juncture in the match against Karnataka.
It was a shameful defeat against Karnataka on Tuesday as the team's batting line-up came a cropper with no other batsman barring skipper Mohd Kaif in the middle order being able to do much. Though Kaif justified his presence with a fascinating 91-run knock in the first innings, Raina's pathetic show with the bat continued in both innings. After a disgraceful show in the one-day series in South Africa a fortnight ago, Raina contributed 0 and 16 with the bat in this match too.
On the other hand, Team India discard left-arm seamer Rudra did well with the Red cherry, bagging six wickets, including four in the second innings. But young leggie Piyush Chawla, who aims to complete a century of his First Class wickets this season, had just 1/92 in the match. The only wicket he grabbed was of C Raghu in the first innings, but his 23 overs spell cost him 80 runs.
Far beyond the expectations, Uttar Pradesh had a bad start of the season last month. Despite being pitted against the mediocre team of Saurashtra, Uttar Pradesh could gain just two points on the basis of the first innings lead despite having a chance of an outright win, at the OEF Stadium in Kanpur.
In the second match too, despite a fair chance to take first innings lead against Delhi at the Ferozshah Kotla Ground in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh fell 12 runs short.
Piyush Chawla should be blamed for this as he attempted for a huge six at the crucial juncture and I Sharma's delivery shattered his stumps. That shot left UP men desperately shaking their heads in frustration.
Retirement of former Indian star and left-handed batsman Gyanendra Pandey just a few days ago and dropping of seasoned campaigner Rizwan Shamshad before the UP-Karnataka match left the middle order in trouble. Though Ravikant Shukla and Jyoti Yadav made useful contributions to the first innings, they failed to make any positive impact in the second innings.
Frequent experiments with the opening slot too has worsened the team's performance. Some time Praveen Kumar and Shivakant Shukla begin the innings, while on other occasions it's a combination of Shivakant Shukla and junior India star Tanmay Srivastava.
Absence of a left-arm spinner in the team is the other drawback. Young Avinash Yadav should be tested as he is the best among the present lot.
UP have four matches more to play in the Super League and they stand every chance to make it to the knock-out stage. But for that they have to score at least three outright wins in the matches against Baroda, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Haryana.
So Kaif and Co, pull up your shocks for the matches to come!