KOCHI: It has been a long time in the making but they stumbled on the roadblocks quite a number of times. Now that the Kerala cricket team have finally made it to the last eight of the prestigious Ranji Trophy, the predecessors of the state's current crop of cricketers believe they have what it takes to go all the way in the domestic competition.
"From what I have seen, it won't be a surprise if this team goes on to win the Ranji Trophy this year. I have watched a lot of teams in the Ranji Trophy as part of my umpiring assignments and I don't see an area were Kerala is lacking," said K N Ananthapadmanabhan, who saw the state into the pre-quarterfinals in the 1994-95 season which was Kerala's best performance until Tuesday.
"It is difficult to compare teams from two generations, but I think the current set up has better pacers and a solid batting lineup compared to our team. We had better spinners, but the squad wasn't a balanced one in terms of skills," said the legendary Kerala leg-spinner.
Feroze V Rasheed was Kerala's captain when they qualified for the Super League after emerging as the south zone winners in 1996-97. That was the season when a Kerala cricket team first hopped on to a plane as they flew north to face the qualified sides from the other zones -- Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.
"We were touring for 40 days on the stretch and we had to travel in unreserved coaches. We did not have a physio or a trainer. Even there wasn't someone who could brief us about tactics and technique. That has all changed now. Our boys have some of the best facilities available in world cricket and we have been waiting for them to deliver for some time now," said Feroze, now a Southern Railways employee.
"To have a World Cup winner coaching you would have been a dream for our generation," said Ananthapadmanabhan. "A lot of credit should also go to the Kerala Cricket Association who have taken their hands off the selection process this time around. Guest players like Bhavin Thakkar and Iqbal Abdulla were really bad picks last season, but it was all done in a professional manner this time around," he added.
Meanwhile, Tinu Yohannan, who was part of the team that reached the plate final in 2002-03 and semifinal in 2007-08 and also Kerala's current bowling coach, said the team will play with the same momentum as they face Vidarbha in the quarter at Mumbai from December 7.
"This is a far better team compared to 2003-04 and 07-08. And I think we can continue our success if we can play with the freedom we have exercised," Tinu said.
"Young players like Akshay KC and Sijomon Joseph know if they can come up with performances, they can make it to the first 11. Sometimes that is only what matters," said Ananthapadmanabhan.