Odisha has qualified for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals after a gap of three years following a draw against Jharkhand. It was a remarkable outing for the Subhranshu Senapati-led side which finished second in Group C (38 points) behind Jammu & Kashmir.

This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the guidance of former domestic batting stalwart and current coach Rashmi Ranjan Parida.

Moment of pride

“We aimed to progress to the Elite Group A & B and to achieve that we had to be among the top two. That was the aim that the boys had and finally we are there,” Parida told Sportstar from Bhubaneshwar.

“It’s a moment of pride and we are happy with our achievement. Having said that, we aim to reach the semis and then the final. It is not an impossible task,” he said.

Odisha began its season with three straight wins against Chhattisgarh, Services and Uttarakhand.

The team next salvaged a draw against Tripura and then pulled off a stunning one-wicket away win against Haryana.

“Winning the first three games gave us the momentum. It was a massive boost and beating Haryana in Rohtak was very satisfying. We knew we had the arsenal to win games,” Parida stated.

However, in its next fixture, Odisha suffered a four-wicket loss at home to J&K before bouncing back to beat Assam and Maharashtra.

“It’s a long season and I knew we would suffer a loss here and there.

“But we never allowed the momentum to slip away and came back strongly. It’s been an incredible journey and credit goes to the entire team. There were individual flashes of individual brilliance, but overall it was a team effort,” he said.

The 2016 knockout

During the 2016 quarterfinal, Odisha lost to Gujarat, with rival opener Samit Gohel scoring an unbeaten 359 and breaking the world record for the highest score by an opener carrying his bat in first-class cricket. Gujarat qualified for the semifinal based on first-innings lead.

Asked how his side is preparing for the high-pressure match, Rashmi said, “Look it’s all about mental strength and the boys are ready for it. Except for Basant, Biplab and Govind the rest haven’t played a knockout.

“So it’s a chance for them to express themselves and create something special. Bengal will come hard but we are ready for it. Quarterfinal has its charm.”

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