Vadodara: Their campaign back on track after a late resurgence, Railways face a gritty Baroda in what promises to be a keen contest between two evenly-balanced sides in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals here on Friday.
For Baroda, home advantage would count and coach Mukesh Narula said the Pinal Shah-led side, which has explosive all-rounder Yousuf Pathan and feisty pacer Munaf Patel in its ranks, would be quite a handful for the former champions.
However, Railways coach Abhay Sharma put things in perspective saying, “it is going to be a contest between two balanced sides.”
Doubts were being expressed over Baroda reaching the knockout stage when they started playing this season after retirement of senior players including S Parab and Martin Jacob and entry of six new players into the team.
In addition to this, the non-availibility of left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan due to a knee injury had only added to the team’s woes.
But despite the odds, the team’s performance has been good as Yusuf, Munaf and Hyderabad batsman Ambati Rayudu have steered the team’s campaign rather well.
“I am happy that all the players including the inexperienced ones revived team’s fortune,” said Narula.
After the three Ranji seasons, Baroda has qualified for the Ranji quarterfinal this season.
“Youngsters such as Jaikishan Kolsawala, Kedar Deodhar, Bhargav Bhatt, Swapnil Singh, Sankalp Vohra, Abhimanyu Chauhan and Utkarsh Patel are gaining experience and will make Baroda a strong side in the next couple of years,” said Narula.
Railways coach Sharma said it will all boil down to which team manages to handle the pressure better.
“Whoever handles the pressure well, can win the match,” he said.
Railways, which got just three points from its first four games before roaring back into reckoning, has experienced players such as Sanjay Bangar, Murali Kartik and JP Yadav.
“We have a bunch of experienced and young players. The wicket looks bouncy and hard and the team will be decided on the morning of the match,” Sharma said.
Captain Bangar said the conditions will suit his bowlers.
“The pitch is very good and I congratulate Baroda Cricket Association for making such a good pitch,” he said.
Sharma said the Railways are confident of making the finals of the tournament after a gap of nine years.