At the very least, you get to see Laxman, Bhajji, Mongia, VRV and Sodhi play for free. At best, this will be a veritable final! Yes, the stage is set for a high-voltage encounter at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Uppal, with the most eagerly awaited match of the Group B Ranji Trophy, between Hyderabad and Punjab, from 10th to 13th January.
With Bengal on 12 points and Mumbai on 10 points occupying the top two slots of the group table, Hyderabad and Punjab have eight points each and should, in all probability, win this match to stay in contention for a semifinal spot. But it also depends on the outcome of other two matches, Mumbai Vs Maharashtra and Bengal Vs Rajasthan. If Bengal gets two points and Mumbai 4 points, this match will hold no significance.
Hyderabad will be led by V V S Laxman, who's just back from South Africa. He is battling to get into the Indian one-day team that plays West Indies and the World Cup. He will be out to impress the selectors who will be selecting the team to take on the Windies at home.
Hyderabad have been plagued by inconsistency and complacency, having started their season well against Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Mumbai, but having gradually lost grip towards the end stages. They conceded a first innings lead and managed a draw against Gujarat, which is now relegated to the plate division. In their previous encounter against Bengal, they had more than a hundred runs' lead in the first innings, but shockingly lost that match.
The team will be without their in-form batsmen A T Rayudu who is injured and D B Ravi Teja selected for the Under-19 team for New Zealand. Now the onus is on Laxman, Arjun Yadav, T Suman, Anirudh Singh and D Vinay Kumar to put up a big score so that bowlers like Alfred Absolem, Kaushik Reddy, M P Arjun and Pragyan Ojha, who have been consistently performing, can run through the opposition line-up.
Punjab on the other hand will be captained by Pankaj Dharmani, who's the leading runs scorer this season. It looks formidable with the presence of international and ex-international players like Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Mongia, V R V Singh, R S Sodhi and Gagandeep Singh.
For further details, please contact the Hyderabad Cricket Association at 2790-5676.