HYDERABAD: From mere pushovers to a fighting and winning unit. That is the Goa cricket team now and Nuwan Zoysa, the former Sri Lanka international, has been one of the architects of their transformation.
The Goans are steadily climbing up the ladder in all the formats. They missed the bus in the qualification race to another underdog, Jammu and Kashmir, in the last season in the Ranji Trophy by the narrowest of margins (0.001).
But thereafter, it has been a success story. They emerged South Zone Twenty20 champions earlier this year at Visakhapatnam and repeated that gutsy performance in the South Zone Subbaiah Pillai one-day tournament.
The Swapnil Asnodkar-led team won three of the four matches to be comfortably placed behind table toppers Karnataka. Irrespective of the result against bottom-placed Hyderabad on Thursday, they seem set to qualify for the all-India tournament.
After their first-match loss to Karnataka, Goa bounced back to beat Kerala, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Their batsmen and bowlers have been aggressive and Zoysa is enjoying the moments. “They are a good bunch of boys. They are playing as a team. They are hungry for success,’’ said the former Lankan left-arm seam bowler.
Zoysa said his boys have brought refreshing change in their approach. “Their mindset has changed. They are no longer pushovers. They have self belief to beat any opposition. They play with a lot of purpose and determination,’’ he said.
The Lankan international said he had focused on team spirit. “They had the skills but lacked focus. Now they are showing a lot of seriousness. The batsmen value their wicket and the bowlers look for wickets. Both have worked hard on their game,’’ he pointed out.
In the previous Ranji season, they were a little out of focus in some games, he added. “They realised their mistakes soon and in the T20 tournament, played aggressive cricket.’’
Zoysa complimented the boys for coming back after the Karnataka setback. “After that, the boys have shown wonderful temperament, resilience and character. It has been a very good journey. We are a different side now,” he said.
However, the team was laid low by injuries to fast bowlers — Harshad Gadekar (hamstring) and Buddhadev Mangaldas (fracture on his right shin). Gadekar had taken five wickets in the first match while Mangaldas had a bad fall on the ground in the Tamil Nadu match on Tuesday.
On Thursday, they are sure they will complete another fairytale by qualifying for the all India tournament for the first time. “Yeah, it is a big moment,’’ Zoysa signed off.