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Maharashtra is a confident unit: Surendra Bhave

Coach backs his wards going into Ranji finals
Maharashtra is a confident unit: Surendra Bhave

Finishing at the top of the Group C in the league phase, Maharashtra have had a dream run in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy. Under the watchful eye of former Maharashtra captain Surendra Bhave, the team has punched above its weight to beat some of the better teams. Amongst their achievements under Rohit Motwani, is their convincing win over defending champions Mumbai in the quarter-final at the Wankhede stadium and a thumping 10-wicket win in three days over Bengal at the Holkar Stadium in the semi-final.

Speaking about the approach to the final, coach Bhave said, “The usual trick used there is that you keep saying that it’s just another game, but everyone knows it’s not. So giving it due importance, but then again we have concentrated throughout the season about playing the session correctly. Winning the session is important. So once again it is a session to session and a day to day process for the side. Winning all those games will definitely have a bearing on how we play this particular match.”

The top two run-getters of the season belong to Maharashtra. With 1074 runs, Kedar Jadhav leads the charts and is followed by Harshad Khadiwale, who has accumulated 980 runs so far. While the side's batting has been strong, Bhave also spoke highly of the bowling. “It can be a big factor. But at this point in time, I am very confident about our bowling. We have done well since the Jammu & Kashmir game and bowled in the right areas. Our catching has also come up and improved, and that was not the case at the beginning of the season.”

Meanwhile, had Vijay Zol been unavailable, the team had replacements ready. “We had options. Rahul Tripathi has scored a double-hundred in the Colonel CK Nayudu Trophy. Vijay getting permission to play in the game is a very positive sign. Nikhil Naik also got a double in the semis, and we had replacements,” Bhave explained.

Speaking about the team’s composition, he said, “Most likely to go in with the same team. We are still contemplating whether we can make a change. Shrikant Mundhe is fit and available for selection, so he will be a strong contender to come back into the team.”

Discussing Chirag Khurana's role as a spinner, the coach said, “Chirag Khurana balances the team, that's the main thing. We get a pure off-spinner if Chirag is up the order. The 48 that he got for us against Bengal was crucial after they were bowled out for 114. He made a quick 48 and that really set us up for a good total.”

Speaking about the role of reverse swing, he said, "The wicket is slightly on the rougher side. It might play a big role in this game. Reverse swing, conventional swing, all have a role to play in the game, you never really know."

Speaking about the wicket, Bhave said, “The pitch is sporting, the ball will turn a little bit and we will be looking to play accordingly.”

“There is a little bit of grass on the pitch. It’s live grass and it’s not completely bare,” he added.

“The first two days of any knockout match are important and it will be the same thing here. Looks like a win toss and bat first but we will have to wait till tomorrow. You can decide what you like till today but it all depends on how the pitch looks tomorrow and what our gut feeling is. What are the areas we need to cover,” he said.

“It’s good to feel that pressure. It is better to be in the finals rather than just imagining about being in the finals. We are there now. We are fine with the pressure. One big thing about professional sport is that you need to be able to handle pressure at the big moments,” he said while discussing the pressure of playing the finals. “The players are definitely treating it as an opportunity rather than as a challenge. That helps you to manage pressure and I hope it does because I really think this team is talented enough to lift the cup.”

Bhave, who led Maharashtra when they last reached the final in 1992-93, has contributed largely to the team’s fortune. Speaking about what makes this team tick and the attitude in the dressing room, he said, “I have worked with a first-class team after a long time. Once I got connected to this team, I realised that they are not scared of anyone. They are an extremely confident unit. They are not scared of the big names. They deal with the ball, not with the bowler. They have been pretty good at focusing on the job and I don't think there has been any pressure in the dressing room right now.”

Meanwhile, captain Motwani added, “This team was performing well individually till last year. There was guidance that was needed for the team to come together. The only thing missing was a coach who could understand the scenario of our team, and once that happened, the team picked up.”
When asked if expectations of winning the title are putting added pressure on him and the team, the Maharashtra captain replied, “That is there, the Ranji trophy title is at the back of the mind. We have to do all the processes right. We need to cut things down in short goals. Winning the Ranji Trophy is the ultimate aim and it is at the back of our minds.” 

BCCI Staff

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Report: New Zealand vs India – 4th ODI

Taylor century helps NZ to series win

New Zealand sealed the five-match ODI series with a seven-wicket win over India in the fourth game, in Hamilton. A valuable 60 by Kane Williamson and a sparkling ton by Ross Taylor took the hosts to a comfortable victory, after India posted 278. Unbeaten on 49, Brendon McCullum took the team across the line with a six, with 11 balls to spare. Meanwhile, Taylor remained not out on 112.

Earlier, India made a few changes going into the must-win match at the Seddon Park. First was the line-up – Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina made way for Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny. And MS Dhoni opted to bat first after winning the toss. Virat Kohli opened the batting for India, but this time round, India's most consistent performer in recent times was back in the dressing room early. He was followed by Ajinkya Rahane. Tim Southee and Kyle Mills kept a strangle hold on the batsmen from the word go. Mills and Jimmy Neesham replaced Corey Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan in the NZ squad.

The India struggled as Rohit Sharma too survived a couple of chances. Both Rohit and Ambati Rayudu survived as fielders failed to get underneath their miscued aerial shots. However, Rohit having bided his time at the crease, converted his start into a valuable knock. He was involved in two crucial partnerships – with Rayudu and MS Dhoni.

Rohit and Rayudu stabilised the Indian innings with a 79-run stand. He began to cut and pull as he slammed the ball to the fence. Rayudu too stepped out to the bowlers trying to upset the rhythm and moved his feet while trying to keep the flow runs steady. However, later, Rayudu top-edged a short ball from Hamish Bennett to the wicketkeeper to depart for 37.

Dhoni then joined Rohit in taking the innings forward and the duo had added 41 for the fourth wicket when a Williamson delivery going down the leg side grazed the opener’s bat and Ronchi took a catch diving to his left to send Rohit back for 79. Ashwin then got off the mark with a glorious boundary through covers, but perished while trying to cut Bennett.

With the pace set and the captain on song at the other end, Ravindra Jadeja continued from where he had left in the previous game. The ball found itself amongst the spectators a few times through the innings as India set the home team a competitive target after a slow and shaky start.

Scoring at over seven runs per over, they added 127 runs in an unbroken stand. With a flat four straight down ground, the India skipper brought up his third consecutive 50.

Jadeja’s quick-fire knock injected new life into the innings. While Dhoni remained unbeaten on 79, Jadeja was not out on 62 off 54 balls.

Chasing 279, Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder got the home team off to a good start and were coasting along when Varun Aaron struck in his first over to remove Ryder and halt the opening stand for 54. And in the next over, Guptill was trapped leg-before by Mohammed Shami.

The two quick wickets helped peg back NZ run-rate. With spin getting assistance, Dhoni introduced Jadeja in the 11th over and then brought in Ashwin from the other end, and they responded by bringing down the run rate below five.

It was in the 22nd over that debutant Binny was introduced into the attack and Rayudu replaced Bhuvneshwar after a two-over short spell as the Indians strove to ebb the flow of runs and get breakthroughs. While Williamson and Taylor looked to add to the total, Dhoni rotated his bowlers.

Meanwhile, the Kiwi pair steadily built on the innings at an unhurried pace, dispatching the loose deliveries to the boundary. The partnership began to take shape and was past the three-figure mark. Taylor was the first of the two to reach his 50 and Williamson, who has been the mainstay of the hosts’ line-up, bought up his fourth successive 50 with a single off Ashwin.

It was a brilliant piece of fielding that gave India a much-needed breakthrough. Jadeja fielded the ball off his own bowling to run Williamson out and end the partnership for 130.

However, the wicket didn’t bring much relief to the visitors as Taylor continued to milk the Indian attack. With Brendon McCullum at the other end, runs kept flowing freely. Taylor slammed Bhuvneshwar over cover to reach the 90s, and in the following over, McCullum sent Aaron sailing over long-off. While they inched towards the target, Taylor brought up his ton with a powerful cut to the fence off Aaron.

With an unbroken 92-run partnership they took their team across the line.

Man of the Match: Ross Taylor for his match-winning century

Prajakta Pawar

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