J&K senior cricket team is all set to start its season with the first match against formidable Bengal in Vijay Hazare Trophy-2018 on Thursday at SSN College Ground, Chennai.
Vijay Hazare Trophy is 50-over format tournament for which J&K Cricket Association (JKCA) has fielded 20-member squad under the captaincy of Parvez Rasool. J&K's mentor-cum-player Irfan Pathan will be seen first time in action for the State in national cricket arena, playing under the captaincy of Parvez Rasool.
This season Irfan joined J&K as its mentor-cum-player after cutting his 18-year old ties with home side, Baroda. The former Indian all-rounder, who has represented Baroda for the entirety of his Ranji Trophy career, was relieved of his duties as the team's captain after only two matches of (2017-18) season.
In his 18-year-long stint with Baroda, Irfan has scored a total of 4096 runs, including three centuries and 23 half-centuries in 113 games. As a bowler, he has taken 365 wickets, including 18 five-wicket hauls and three 10-wicket hauls.
Since arriving in J&K, Irfan has been busy in mentoring the J&K cricketers for more than three months now. Over this period, he had done talent hunts, screening camps and coaching camps in addition to arrangement of preparatory series against Uttar Pradesh and tour to Andhra Pradesh for J&K team.
Before the start of J&K's season in national cricket arena, Irfan while talking to sports magazine- Sportstar- had said that his inclusion will not bring in changes overnight, but a process has been started to scout better players and improve the overall cricket structure in the valley. Pathan also called for more tournaments and promised results in the coming years. "We played only one tournament before this, but the guys are confident." Irfan was quoted in the magazine.
"The history of the side hasn't been good in terms of first-class cricket. But we need to keep that aside and take one step at a time. It is a new team and a new challenge for me. We have a skipper in Parvez Rasool who really wants to do well. He has worked hard for the betterment of the team," Irfan was quoted in another report.
To have a look at the performance of J&K team in the last season, it played six matches in the tournament, suffering defeats in four matches while managing to win only two including a commendable one against star-studded Saurashtra side. However, overall performance during the campaign was poor.
With Irfan's inclusion in the team acting as the booster besides induction of a couple of new talented youngsters, the state team is expected to perform well this time. Moreover, skipper Parvez Rasool with his match- winning performances for India Reds in Duleep Trophy recently is set to provide further impetus to his side.
J&K has been kept in the Elite Group-C and will be playing matches against Bengal, Jharkhandh, Haryana, Tripura, Gujarat, Services, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Assam.
Present Bengal team includes international players like Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha and Ashoke Dinda and it will not be easy for J&K team to go against the side in its first match of the season. However, team official said that morale of players is high and they want to prove their critics wrong.
"Bengal is quality team that has got some of the international stars. But our boys are also full of confidence and they have been working hard. Our team has got boost in shape of Irfan Pathan who is preparing players well for the big match day. His presence in the dressing room has changed everything as he brings in lot of experience with him," JK team official said.