MP vs Rlys: A virtual battle for top spot | india | Hindustan Times
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MP vs Rlys: A virtual battle for top spot

After three days of gruelling cricket amidst complains of a hectic schedule, it is pretty clear that the team that got sufficient rest between its matches has played the best game so far in the Ranji one-day tournament.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2006 02:51 IST

After three days of gruelling cricket amidst complains of a hectic schedule, it is pretty clear that the team that got sufficient rest between its matches has played the best game so far in the Ranji one-day tournament.

While Rajasthan, Vidarbha, Railways and UP have played on consecutive days -- the first two have, in fact, played three games in a row -- Madhya Pradesh have been the lucky ones. They are currently joint leaders in the league with Railways, having eight points. Sure, there are Vidarbha who've got only better by the day, but then, they are the team under least pressure.

Before they'd played the first game, Vidarbha skipper Pritam Gandhe had said that even one victory would be enough to satisfy them. In contrast are hosts Rajasthan, who simply got too tired, particularly after they'd choked in the second game against Railways.

As of now, it is Railways, coming from a horrendous days' games season, facing co-leaders Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday at the KL Saini ground, in what will most probably decide the league topper from the zone. That is, after discounting the phrase, 'cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties'.

With Madhya Pradesh up against Vidarbha after this and Railways taking on an impoverished Uttar Pradesh, Tuesday's game is almost as good as a final. On paper, though, Railways are a touch stronger and not because of the presence of former internationals. It is because of their all-round capability that is still the best.

Madhya Pradesh have been lacking an able seamer who can support Sanjay Pandey. Their other opening bowler Dholpure isn't fit - his typhoid relapsed - and that is where they are feeling the heat. Slow bowlers Golwalkar and Abbas Ali are good enough to tie things up in the middle.

But then, Abbas himself is a batting all-rounder. And it is this lacuna in bowling that Railways will have to exploit -- apart from getting the top four MP batsmen out cheaply after which the Middle Indians' batting tends to thin out.

For Railways though, it has not always been a bed of roses. They almost lost to Rajasthan in the second game and only Rajasthan's lack of direction helped their cause. Still, their batting is more experienced and so is their bowling and they begin favourites against the men from Malwa.

Squads

Madhya Pradesh: Amay Khurasia, Naman Ojha, Syed Abbas Ali (capt), Devendra Bundela, Brijesh Tomar, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Bakshi, Shantanu Pitre, Sanjay Pandey, Jalajh Saxena, Yogesh Golwalkar, Anand Rajan; Railways: G Shankara Rao, Amit Pagnis, TP Singh, JP Yadav, Sanjay Bangar, Shreyas Khanolkar, Santosh Sahu, Rahul Deb, Madan Yadav, Harvinder Singh, Rahul Thakur, Raja Ali.

Rajasthan play for pride

In the other match, Rajasthan will fight only for pride when they take on Uttar Pradesh at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium. For UP, however, a win could keep their hopes of qualifying for the next stage alive. They had a practice session on Monday and coach Rajinder Singh Hans showed confidence. “We are a young side. Considering that, whatever we take home is an experience,” he said.