September 24, 2008

Irani Trophy

Remember the underdogs

Aakash Chopra
The victorious Delhi squad lift the Ranji Trophy, Delhi v Uttar Pradesh, Ranji Trophy Super League final, Mumbai, 4th day, January 19, 2008
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Hello everyone

The Irani Trophy game between the Ranji champions and the Rest of India is a curtain raiser to the new domestic season. It has always been a high-profile game, pitting the national champions against the very best of the country. I've played in the Irani Trophy a few times in the past, but it's always been for the Rest of India. This time I'll be playing for my state team, so this is a first for me. Talking about firsts, incidentally this is also the first time I've come to Baroda. Considering I've been around on the domestic circuit for a decade, it seems bizarre even to me.

We managed a decent net session yesterday as the tracks had dried up and the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. Even though it was doing loads for the quicker bowlers, it was much better than what we batted on yesterday. There was decent grass covering on the practice wickets, a stark contrast to the track in the middle that is totally barren and looks a little too dry for a five-day match. The track on this particular IPCL ground has the reputation of helping the quicker men for a couple of reasons: the red soil that offers more bounce carrying the edges to the slips comfortably, and the open surroundings with greenery all around. The wind blows nicely and assists the seam bowlers.

The weather hasn’t been kind on the curator for the last 10 days, and it must've been really tough to prepare a decent track when it has been under covers most of the time. One might think that with all the rain around, if anything, there should be more moisture on the track, but that's seldom the case. A good curator would avoid watering it too much, taking the rains into account and leaving some room for any unexpected shower. Ergo, this track, which I am told usually has a decent grass covering and moisture, is a little dry to start with.

We're playing against a virtual India side, except for the Delhi players and Sachin Tendulkar. Instead of focusing on the players we're up against, we're focusing on our strengths, and let me assure you we have many. We're at our full strength, which hasn't happened for quite some time. One look at the talent available in our dressing room exudes confidence in the whole squad. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not taking anything away from our opposition, but I can't say anything about them that hasn't already been said or written a zillion times over.

No one would give a state team a chance to beat such a strong unit, but that only means that we have everything to gain and very little to lose from this game. Although the odds are stacked against us, we are all geared up to give the ROI a run for their money. Gautam Gambhir said something that would give you an insight into the mindset we will take in when we go in to play. He said, “We must believe that this ROI side is beatable and regardless of the situation of the match we're in, we mustn't lose that belief.”

For us this game is the reward for having won the Ranji Trophy last season, as this would offer a great opportunity and platform for everyone to showcase his talent. A few might have got this opportunity in any case - some would've been picked for the ROI - but for the rest, it's their only shot to grab the limelight.

If we play to our potential and don't allow the importance of the occasion to distract us from the job at hand, a great contest is in the offing.

Rest of India, here we come.

Please wish us luck … it's great to support the underdogs.

Cheers

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Dharmin Desai on (September 24, 2008, 19:27 GMT)

Over the recent years I have been a big fan of the Delhi Ranji Team (I started following more closely may be since the emergence of Nehra and Sehwag). Even without the international regulars Delhi is one of the strongest domestic teams.

Coming to this match, ROI may seem the better team on paper. But the batting lineup that includes Sehwag, Gambhir, Yourself and Kohli is definitely the strongest in the country at the moment. To me they are the fab four of the future and I hope all four play together for the country soon.

Posted by Shekar on (September 24, 2008, 18:44 GMT)

Aakash, Having followed what you did since 2 seasons and also in Australia, it is hard to see why you are not making to India Team. There is still a way but again it will be adjusting the lineup. If Gambhir drops down to ganguly's position, you can be in the 11. Guess what, we have one of our recent best forward short leg fielder back in the Eleven. That would be an awesome lineup for India: Sehwag, Aakash, Dravid, Tendulkar, Gambhir, laxman, Dhoni, Kumble, Harbajan, Zaheer and Ishant.

IF AND IF ONLY the selectors know what an dhow it needs to be done.

Posted by amit on (September 24, 2008, 18:15 GMT)

Good luck Aakash! Wish we fans in the US could watch this contest!

Posted by Aditya on (September 24, 2008, 17:17 GMT)

Akash all the good luck to you man.Watching you from a long time, you started playing long innings nowadays. After any of the fab four retiere we will ask Viru to come in the middle order, then you and Gautam open. Keep going man

Posted by Aravind on (September 24, 2008, 15:55 GMT)

I am pleasantly surprised by the all round talent Delhi has got. A fine WK a good leg spinner a wonderful pace attack comprising two youngsters and an expeienced bowler. Hope the batsmen like Manhas show that they can counter the best of Bowlers in India. Though Dhawan is not available, Delhi certainly has an attacking batting line-up with a great flair. Irani Trophy was never more attractive! Having followed many Ranaji champions fo the past I must say that this Delhi side comes very close to the best as far as alround talent is concerned.

Posted by Aravind on (September 24, 2008, 15:54 GMT)

I am pleasantly surprised by the all round talent Delhi has got. A fine WK a good leg spinner a wonderful pace attack comprising two youngsters and an expeienced bowler. Hope the batsmen like Manhas show that they can counter the best of Bowlers in India. Though Dhawan is not available, Delhi certainly has an attacking batting line-up with a great flair. Irani Trophy was never more attractive! Having followed many Ranaji champions fo the past I must say that this Delhi side comes very close to the best as far as alround talent is concerned.

Posted by Samir Chopra on (September 24, 2008, 14:13 GMT)

Akash,

I've already predicted a win for Delhi. Now, go out there, score a ton, and get back into the Indian side. Good luck!

And keep up the excellent blogging.

Posted by Joseph Abraham, San Ramon, USA on (September 24, 2008, 6:48 GMT)

Loved your positive mantra in the article - reminded me of an old quote "you can never achieve anything beyond the limits you set in your mind". The attitude Delhi is going in with is absolutely the right one - hope the Gambhir's mantra is drilled into each of the playing eleven.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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