Chandigarh: It wasn’t smoggy, but actually foggy in Amritsar when a man in black patka entered the practice area of Gandhi Ground on Tuesday.
The man was none other than designated Punjab captain Harbhajan Singh, who is yet to play a single match in this year’s Ranji Trophy season.
As soon as he entered the nets area, Bhajji went to coach Ajay Ratra. The pair had a long chat for nearly half an hour before Harbhajan went on to do his stretching exercises.
The out-of-favour India off-spinner quickly had the red cherry in his hands and was seen twirling it in his hands. Harbhajan bowled for a good hour or so — wherein the quintessential loop was exhibited to budding cricketers of Amritsar who had come to see their hero in flesh and blood.
It wasn’t a disappointing session for the young turks as Harbhajan unleashed all the weapons in his repertoire.
Punjab is going to play Bengal in their fifth Group D league match at the Gandhi Ground in Amritsar from November 17-20. Harbhajan is expected to lead the side this time. Bengal will be missing Mohammad Shami, who is part of the Test squad that’s going to face Sri Lanka from November 16. The first Test is going to be played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
It’ll be a good opportunity for Team Punjab to put it across Bengal, and Harbhajan knows that his pacers Siddharth Kaul and Manpreet Gony will be crucial for a positive outcome.
Therefore, he took turns with Kaul and Gony and did a lot of talking or rather it seemed “explaining”. Both Kaul and Gony were intent listeners and later on bowled with some infectious energy.
Kaul has been knocking on the Indian team’s doors for a long time now, and is seen as a brilliant prospect for the country’s limited-overs scheme of things.
Gony, meanwhile, has been bowling with great fervour in this Ranji season. He was instrumental in Punjab’s last two outright victories against Chhattisgarh and Goa, giving the team crucial breakthroughs with the new ball as well as the old.
After a miserable start, Punjab managed to reinvent their campaign on the back of some superb performances from the young brigade. The likes of Anmolpreet Singh, Abhishek Sharma, Raghu Sharma, and Abhishek Gupta have left a lasting impression. With Harbhajan back in the mix, and in fact leading the side, it’ll interesting to see whether the camaraderie that was prevailing within the young Punjab team in the last two games remains intact. Punjab may be on a roll after two outright victories against Goa and Chhattisgarh, but coach Ratra is of the view that the team has to build on this momentum and cannot afford to get carried away. Ratra feel that Punjab is in a tricky group, with no favourites. The group is wide open.
“This team has a good mixture of youth and experience and we won’t leave any stone unturned against Bengal for an outright victory. We would like to continue with this momentum,” said Ratra.
17 Jan 2021
18 Jan 2021