Ranji Trophy quarter-finals

Faith in players took Hyderabad back to top level

After their 21 all out debacle against Rajasthan last season, Hyderabad dropped several players. This season, new coach Sunil Joshi insisted players be stuck with, and they have earned a quarter-final against Rajasthan

Nagraj Gollapudi

December 31, 2011

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Hyderabad celebrate their qualification to the knockouts, Vidarbha v Hyderabad, Ranji Trophy Plate League, 1st semi-final, Nagpur, 4th day, December 24, 2011
Ibrahim Khaleel: "The best thing about Hyderabad this year is that we have barely changed our team through all the games." © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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The first day of November 2010 began quietly for the Hyderabad team. The morning air in Jaipur had a little nip, but the sun was steadily breaking through. Hyderabad were playing Rajasthan in the first round of the 2010-11 Ranji Trophy Plate League. Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the Rajasthan captain, won the toss and elected to field. Little did he know that his decision would lead to a headline-making sequence of events that would leave an indelible mark on Hyderabad cricket's history.

Debutant Deepak Chahar, son of an air force employee, was given the new ball. Chahar, a right-arm seamer, charged in to carve through the Hyderabad batting and finish with figures of 7.3-2-10-8, forcing Hyderabad to capitulate for 21. It was a tournament record for the lowest team total and matched the Indian first-class record. Seventy-eight minutes. That was how long Hyderabad's first innings lasted.

"We were just sitting in the dressing-room and we did not know what to do. It happened so quickly," Syed Quadri, one of Hyderabad's senior players, says. Ibrahim Khaleel, the Hyderabad keeper, describes the sequence of events: "For the first few overs we were fine. Then we lost a wicket. Nothing extraordinary. Then Akshath [Reddy], Anirudh [Singh], Ravi Teja, and Arjun [Yadav] got out in succession. Suddenly I realised I was walking out to bat. It was the craziest dream; from 10 for no loss or something [it was 7 for 0] we were 21 all out."

Though there was some talk of picking themselves up, Quadri admits Hyderabad were "mentally down" going in to bat for the second time after Rajasthan had scored 403 in their first innings. "It is very tough to recover from such a situation," Khaleel says. With such a fragile mindset it was no surprise that Hyderabad were shot out for 126 on their second attempt, to give Rajasthan an innings victory and a bonus point that began a wonderful journey for them, which would culminate in them lifting the Ranji Trophy crown for the first time.

The repercussions for Hyderabad were immediate. Venkatapahy Raju, the coach, and Vivek Jaisimha, the batting coach, stepped down. Under pressure from the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA), the selectors dropped four players for the rest of the season: Arjun Yadav, Anirudh Singh, MP Arjun and Anoop Pai. These men were good friends with the other squad members. Suddenly no player was sure about his place in the side.

MV Sridhar was appointed interim coach and a wounded Hyderabad recovered enough to pick up three points for the first-innings lead in their next match, against Jharkhand, and then score an outright victory against Tripura. But in a crucial match against Goa, they failed to take the first-innings lead, which would have kept them in the reckoning for the Plate semi-finals. Their final group match, against Madhya Pradesh, was curtailed by rain and both teams shared a point each as Hyderabad finished fourth in the group standings.

For the 2011-12 season, the HCA looked for a full-time coach. Fortuitously, Sunil Joshi, the former India and Karnataka left-arm spinner, had decided to move into coaching and chose Hyderabad ahead of Andhra Pradesh and Baroda, the two other states who wanted to hire him. One reason Joshi preferred Hyderabad was because he had gone through the grind of slipping from the Elite group and then bouncing back from Plate when he played for Karnataka. It was a good challenge.

The Laxman effect

  • After Hyderabad were bowled out for 21 in Jaipur last year, Sunil Joshi, then still playing for Karnataka, called up VVS Laxman. Laxman confessed to Joshi that he was badly hurt. So, this season, after Joshi took over as coach of Hyderabad, Laxman started to communicate with him constantly.
  • "He was in touch with me via Blackberry Messenger or phone," Joshi says. "He asked me how best he could motivate the team. He was always ready to provide inputs and help the players."
  • Laxman had played with and against Joshi. He had never seen Joshi the coach. But Laxman was impressed with Joshi's organisational skills after witnessing them first hand when he travelled to Goa a couple of days after India's Mumbai Test match against West Indies. Laxman had a stiff back but he was willing to play if Joshi insisted.
  • "He was ready to play but said it would be tough only because he was travelling early to Australia," Joshi says. "But the next day, after training, he sat with everybody, shared information and hosted a team dinner. Him being with the team had a bigger impact than him playing."
  • According to Ibrahim Khaleel, the Hyderabad wicketkeeper, Laxman gave the players a lot of confidence just by being there. "He was very excited. He told us he had total faith in the team. The way we came back in the Assam game after losing the Maharashtra match really impressed him. He said that showed the quality of the players. 'Just believe in yourselves and you will win this game also' is what he told us."

At the outset Joshi made it clear to the HCA and the selectors that they should not change the team throughout the season. "The players were not sure about their place in the team and that added extra pressure on them," Joshi says. The fear was each player would start playing for himself and not the team if he was insecure.

"The best thing about Hyderabad this year is that we have barely changed our team through all the games," Khaleel says. "That was crucial as everybody had the confidence that the team management was backing them and the team would stay together for the six matches. As a player, if I know I am going to play all games regardless of if I perform or not it makes a difference."

The best example of security leading to confidence is Arjun Yadav, whose match-turning century against Vidarbha in the Plate semi-finals helped Hyderabad qualify for the Elite group. Arjun, son of the former India offspinner Shivlal Yadav, returned this season after being dropped following the Jaipur debacle. In the five matches before the semi-final, he had scores of 43, 0, 1, 17, 3, 21 and 0 not out. Hyderabad needed someone to score a big hundred if they had to overhaul Vidarbha's 531 in around 170 overs at the VCA cricket ground. At 84 for 3, they looked vulnerable. By stumps on the third day they were 216 for 3 with Arjun unbeaten on 91 and Bavanaka Sandeep on 60.

The only day Hyderabad had a meeting was after the third day's play. The team sat on the ground after stumps, and Joshi told them to keep their spirits high, especially after their games against Assam and Goa in the previous two rounds, which Hyderabad had won with bonus points.

The plan for the final morning was to not look for runs, just preserve wickets. The idea was to play for the first fifteen overs without losing wickets. Yadav and Sandeep scored 35 more runs before Sandeep was caught behind. Yadav, too, departed before lunch. But Khaleel and Quadri walked in, determined to bat till the end. "We knew if we stayed at the wicket we could get the runs. Every over we got two or three runs with one big over once in a while and we were reaching the target," Khaleel said of an eventful fourth afternoon.

About fifteen overs before the finish, Quadri was run out on 99, thus ending a valuable 130-run sixth-wicket partnership. Khaleel, too, departed with nine overs to go. "We were on the back foot for a moment," Khaleel says. But the lower-order pair of Pagadala Naidu and Lalith Mohan batted with tenacity to carry Hyderabad through to safety in the end, and though they did not go past Vidarbha's score they qualified by virtue of a better run-rate in their innings. Quadri, who missed out on what would have been his third century of the season, says the team's mindset had seen a sea change because of their confident coach.

On the third evening, Joshi kept walking in and out of the room shared by Arjun and Quadri at the team hotel. "Karna hi hain, karna hi hain (you have to do it)" Joshi kept telling both men. Quadri says it had a positive effect on Arjun. "He did not get any scores in the first five matches, but the coach supported him and he got the crucial hundred in the semi-finals. You need to support a player during his bad times," Quadri says.


Arjun Yadav plays one to the on side, Vidarbha v Hyderabad, Ranji Trophy Plate League, 1st semi-final, Nagpur, 3rd day, December 23, 2011
After being dropped last season, Arjun Yadav was persisted with this season and scored a century in the Plate semi-finals © The Times of India
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Joshi was surprised at the pitch in Nagpur, describing it as a "beauty" because Vidarbha's tail managed to score nearly 200 runs including a century by their No. 9 Amol Jungade and a 72 by Akshay Wakhare, the No. 10. "If we bat sensibly, (make use of the) shorter boundaries and fast outfield, we should be able to pull this off," Joshi told his team.

Another interesting thing Joshi did was to get the team to speak via Skype to Rajesh Venkatadri, a Bangalore-based mental conditioning coach, who Joshi had worked with closely for the last few years of his career. "It was a good distraction at least. Rajesh helped me to overcome certain things in the last three or four years of my career when he had worked with the Karnataka team," Joshi says.

The best example of Joshi's positivity came during the embarrassing innings defeat at home against Maharashtra in Hyderabad's second game this season. Hyderabad had elected to bat on what turned out to be a pitch with unpredictable bounce. They were duly shot out for 124. Maharashtra then took a 60-run lead. Akshya Darekar, the leading wicket-taker from the Plate group, took 8 for 20 as Hyderabad were bundled out for 54 in their second innings.

"We were all silent," Quadri says, describing the dressing-room after that game. "Joshi Sir came in and said 'come on, guys. It is time to laugh'. We were shocked. We have lost the match and he is telling us to laugh."

Joshi remembers the incident well. "Team Hyderabad had lost and it was my responsibility. I told them we can only laugh. We can't change the course of the result now. If you laugh you come out of it and start preparing for the next game. If you sulk you cannot do that."

Joshi's consoling words gave the team a boost. "After his speech we were confident that we can't play worse now. We could only get better," Quadri says.

On January 2, Hyderabad will once again confront Rajasthan, this time in the Elite quarterfinals at Uppal. It could be a case of life coming full circle for Hyderabad. "We will always remember 21," Khaleel says.

Joshi, though, is not bothered about revenge. "In my talks to the team I always tell them: the first stage is we can do it, the second is we shall do it, the third is we will do it," Joshi says. "We are still in the first stage."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by ShashidharHundi on (January 2, 2012, 15:28 GMT)

Good Article & nice to read that Joshi has done a wonderfull Job. It is not easy to pull the teams out of trouble. I think Joshi improved their self belief and thats showing in their performance. Team Hyderabad, we will support you for rest of the season. You have already achieved something by moving out of plate group. All the best for tomorrow & hope you restrict Rajasthan for less than 300 & bat sensibly.

Posted by mehulmatrix on (January 2, 2012, 4:32 GMT)

Wonderful article with insights into players frank view,thoughts,feelings. Such aspects add real value to the game, baring crude entertainment. Sunil seems to be a very good coach and has given the right direction. Hope he instills the spirit in them. Nice to read such article on domestic circuit games

Posted by   on (January 1, 2012, 17:24 GMT)

Very nice article. Nice to know the inside story of team Hyderabad. Really nice to know that sunil joshi is doing a wonderful job as a coach in the hyderabad team. I will support hyderabad after karnataka just because sunil joshi is the coach

Posted by   on (January 1, 2012, 9:19 GMT)

Indeed its a surprise to read the INSIDE STORY on the success of Hyderabad Ranji Team. The guys commenting in like Ibrahim Khaleel, Quadri and others were all Juniors when I use to be playing Club Cricket in Hyderabad. After reading the expressions of these guys and about Sunil Joshi's approach towards them, I can bet Hyderabad will go up soon and for sure will make a big name in Ranji Season. Things have changed tremendously from the days when we use to play and tried our best to get in the Ranji Team, I must say these guys are lucky to be there and specially now since they have a great coach in Sunil Joshi. All i want to say now to Hyderabad Team is that, your OPPONENT is none other than Rajasthan, and since you all remember 21, so I must say what a best time than this to take revenge and gift a REAL SMILE AND BRING LAUGH on your coach Sunil Joshi. My best wishes are with the team Hyderabad. In you guys i feel like i'm representing my State.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2012, 4:44 GMT)

Very Good Atrticle.Hyderabad has improved a lot.Sunil Joshi is a good player and is even proving out to be a good coach.All The Best Hyderabad.

I hope people even take more interest in Indian Domestic Cricket.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2011, 19:24 GMT)

Good article. Not many people know what goes on in these games. Had it been an India match, there would have been 500 comments already. As a lover of sports and cricket, I really appreciate you for bringing up good points. Hyderabad has great history and sunil joshi was a hardworker. Good to see him uae his limited talent. Wish they put in more money for these games too.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2011, 17:34 GMT)

Its time Hyderabad got better from here and reach new heights !! All the best

Posted by   on (December 31, 2011, 17:01 GMT)

Let the team India also learn some positive approach from Team Hyderabad.

Posted by   on (December 31, 2011, 16:13 GMT)

Hats off to sunil joshi he just roxxx as a coach !! Bringing a team as worst as hyderaba team (imho) which lacked unity and confidence frm bottom pf plate league to elite league is nothing less than a miracle for us hyd fans. Now we got some match winners like p.a reddy who is in top 3 batsman of plate leagur and. Pk naidu and s.a quadri and only wicket taking bowler is tht spinner.thats it.suman is just an ipl wonder !! B.sandeep is a very consistent match winner.and this was the first ever tym arjun yadav contributed hope he shows his seniority in svoring runs rather thn.off the field.

We just need a fast bowler and ojha and laxman !!

Raviteja shd perform !! Rayudu shd repent and shd know that bringing a plate team to elite gives more happiness than joining a strong team like baroda and winning matches with them irrespective of his differences with yadav (being neutral here)

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