CHENNAI: The state of Kerala may still be reeling from the aftermath of the recent floods, but the weather gods haven’t stopped its cricket team from immersing themselves in preparations for the upcoming season. The Kerala team has been going at it at full throttle in Chennai since Independence Day, with preparatory drills at Sri Ramachandra Medical College coupled with practice matches against Australian players who are in the city to train at the MRF Pace Foundation.
“The floods did hamper our trials back home, and we have a probables camp next month. But our preparation routine has been involving Chennai for the past two years,” said Sachin Baby, who led the side for the past two seasons. “We’ve had two good seasons, and we want to make sure that we keep the momentum going.”
It’s the Dav Whatmore link — he is involved with the Centre of Sports Science at the college’s premises — that has seen Kerala gear up for its domestic grind since 2017, when he took over as coach of the team. And those two years have been nothing short of record-breaking for Baby and his men — a maiden Ranji Trophy quarterfinal appearance, followed up by a first run to the semifinals, with a comprehensive victory over defending champions Gujarat.
And, more than technical nuances and subtleties, Baby feels that the long rope that Whatmore has given to him and his fellow players has been the catalyst behind Kerala’s rise. “In the seasons before, players would get dropped in just two matches if their performances were not up to the mark. Under Dav sir, they’ve been backed to play four, five matches even if they haven’t hit their stride. Such support is a great confidence-booster. That’s what has helped us put up the displays that we have so far.”
Though their Ranji record has been stellar over the past two seasons, Kerala haven’t carried over their success with the red ball to the white one. They failed to make it to the business end of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy in both those seasons. That’s one aspect the team wants to change. “It’s not as if we lack the talent to do well with the white ball. That’s the area we’re focussing on. We don’t want to be known as a team good in one format. We want to carry our Ranji success to Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare this time,” remarked Baby.
Even as their preparations are going on in full swing, the pre-season has provided Kerala another shot in the arm in the form of Robin Uthappa, who has shifted base from Saurashtra. “Robbie has been with the team since a couple of months ago. He knows what it takes to win a Ranji title. Like Dav sir, he too focusses on increasing positivity. His presence is going to be of great benefit.”
Uthappa to lead
Uthappa has been designated to lead Kerala this domestic season. He will take over from Baby, who was in the role during Kerala’s successful Ranji run over the last two seasons. Sanju Samson is vice-captain.