New Delhi: To the build up of 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season, hints of Indian domestic circuit ushering in new heights was evident with the format getting a revamp and newly found interest of the scribes towards the country's premier cricketing competition.
Similarly, Services, a team struggling to put their name in the Ranji radar for the past eight years were also eying the new season for a revival with a revamp and preparations that were different and new. And, nearly two months into the season, the team has for sure reaped the rewards qualifying to the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time in eight years.
The Services captain, Soumik Chatterjee - who was handed over the reins of the team this year only - feels that the approach they took preparing for the season was a big factor in their success. The team, that he was first part of in 2006, has improved in every front. The application and approach right from the training camps that they had and to the last league game of the tournament has helped the team to become the big boys this year.
"The approach of the team has changed; the whole process of the team that was formed in the past eight months has been so good. We are able to gel as a team and the communication is going well. All these would not have been possible without the efforts of the players and the support of management and support staff as well", says the 24-year-old captain.
Sitting pretty with 26 points, Services went into their last league game against Jharkhand with a mindset of playing the best game possible, according to Chatterjee. But the performance was not good enough as Jharkhand beat Services by five wickets. But, he feels that his team done well so far.
"Till now, our plan was to play good cricket. And with the kind of results we have got. I can say we have played 70 per cent good cricket. The way we started our season we wanted to continue that way and going further too, we have to play well to put up good performances".
BCCI's help came in for relaying the new pitch and Services appointed assistant coach Raju Singh as their head coach this season. Chatterjee feels his continuous efforts too have been rewarded with the team's success. He says, "Raju sir were with us for the past three season and this year he has been the head coach. He has put in a tremendous effort to coach us all. I remember in the rainy season, when there was not practice in north India, we used to come here and practice with Raju sir being there all the time. Raju Sir and Deepak sir (manager of the team) would come here and help us practice. They used to look after us.These small things make the big difference and it is there for all to see."
With the qualification, Services will be playing in a higher group (Group A) next Ranji season and Chatterjee is unfazed with the fact that they would be up against the big boys of Indian cricket. "We too are the big boys, we qualified from this group this year as big boys, it is all about in the mind. It is a matter of effort and the way we play. We capable of playing in the higher groups but the important thing is we have to perform well wherever we play".
As a player, Soumik is not satisfied with himself as the opener has scored two centuries and two fiftes in the eight group games, missing out on a ton by just three runs against Jharkhand. "Am not fully satisfied with my performance, I could have scored my third century in this match but I missed."
Chatterjee praised the bowling attack, which has so far performed really well even in unfavourable conditions. The Services strike bowlers, Suraj Yadav and Nishan Singh,have taken 55 wickets combined in eight matches with Shadaz Nazar, the medium pacer playing his debut season, chipping in with 25 wickets "Am happy with the effort of the new guy Shadaz Nazar. We were expecting good performance from him and he has delivered. Opening bowlers bowl in partnership and both Suraj and Nishan did that for us brilliantly this season. The bowlers performing well are a big boost to the team and we knew that and it was definitely one of the tricks that worked for us."
The mainstay of the Services batting line-up in the initial stages were the veteran Yashpal Singh and the young Rajat Paliwal, both of them scoring 724 and 629 runs respectively in the group fixtures, but they failed to score runs in the last two games. Soumik, though is undisturbed by the failures of his in-form players and said," They have done tremendously well this season and in cricket you just need one good ball to get out even if you in-form or out of form. So this is not a worry fo us as you will lose your wicket when you play. The team is about the eleven players playing and everyone contributes both with the bat and ball".
Services would be taking on Group B winners Uttar Pradesh in the quarter-finals with the match scheduled to be played at Indore, according to sources.