Vijay Hazare Trophy: Lomror & Co ready to roar in their backyard
JAIPUR: It was on February 21, 2018, heading home in an autorickshaw after an ordinary outing at DY Patil Cup in Mumbai, Mahipal Lomror was bursting with energy while he talked about being picked up by the Rajasthan Royals earlier that year. The pep in his voice does not require an occasion. Always the loudest and never short of cheering remarks, the 19-year-old is as vociferous on the field as he was when he used to perform the 12th man duties and even now when he is in charge of Team Rajasthan. If anything has changed for the youngster, it is his visits to his home town Nagaur which he now seldom visits.
In 19 months, not just his responsibilities but also his ambition as a cricketer has soared. Having confined himself to commutes from his apartment in Jaipur to the gym and to the academy, Lomror is looking ahead to take on a new challenge of pumping in life into Rajasthan's abysmal performance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in last many years.
The 50-over format has been the Team Rajasthan's Achilles' heels. As the team gears up for the new season, Lomror has a massive task of replicating his previous year's Ranji Trophy performance both as a player and as a captain.
Going into the tournament with a fine century for India Red in the second match of Duleep Trophy, the burden of expectation on the left-hand batsman is huge. Last year, two players led the side - Ashok Menaria in first five games and Deepak Chahar in last four games - but none could have an impact on the tournament. Rajasthan ended at the second last position with just two wins from nine matches.
Call it the team's inability to play on turning tracks in Chennai in previous two Vijay Hazare outings or the failure of the captains to inspire teammates in the last many years, Lomror can be credited for at least motivating the side that almost after seven years made it to the quarterfinals during the last Ranji season when he was handed over the reins of the state side.
With Rajasthan opening their Vijay Hazare campaign against Tamil Nadu, the team that boasts of many high-profile players, the hosts will bank on the home advantage. The bevy of fast bowlers whose mettle is known to everyone will be a tough test to clear for all the nine teams in Group C. Having Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed and Rahul Chahar alongside Aniket Choudhary and Tanveer-Ul-Haq is a big bonus for the hosts.
Lomror's opposite number in the tournament opener, Dinesh Karthik is in fine touch himself but would expect the team to put up a collective effort on a pace-friendly pitch at the SMS Stadium in the absence of the services of Murali Vijay, Washington Sundar who will miss out on the initial few games and all-rounder Vijay Shankar who is nursing a thumb injury. The team management will take a call on Shankar's fitness before the match.
Gujarat and Bengal are other two teams that can give a tough fight to Team Rajasthan. Services, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Railways, J&K and Bihar will have to punch above their weight to challenge the might of the home team's bowlers.