Hyderabad: This will be the second season as captain of the Andhra Ranji team and city boy G Hanuma Vihari says he is ready for the new challenge. “We have a stronger team this year. Captaincy is always a challenge. I’m happy that Andhra Cricket Association has trusted me even though I just moved from Hyderabad two seasons ago. I hope to do well in the new season. We are building a young side and it is a challenge to keep improving,’’ said the former 23-year-old Hyderabad middle-order batsman.
Andhra are in tough Group C along with Baroda, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Tripura. They face a strong Tamil Nadu in the opening league fixture in Chennai on October 6. “The new season will be different. It gives us a chance to compete with the best and top teams in the country. This way, it helps in improving our game. It is an opportunity for everyone to raise the bar. We should make winning a habit,’’ he said.
Vihar said it was unfortunate that Andhra could not qualify for the quarterfinals last season despite playing good cricket. “I thought we were a bit unfortunate. But if we play with the same level of intensity and remain focused we can do well in the new season.’’
According to Vihari, the return of seasoned batsman Y Venugopal Rao will strengthen the team. “Venugopal will bring rich experience to the side. The team is looking forward to playing with him. I’m sure he will add value to the team.’’
The captain said the side has got a good mixture of youth and experience. “Players like Venugopal, DB Ravi Teja (former Hyderabad skipper) and Vijay Kumar can be the x-factor while we have plenty of youngsters who can infuse energy to the team.’’
On his own form with the bat, Vihari admitted he has to be more consistent. “I have to score runs and I have to push myself to be in contention for the Indian teams. It is a very important year for me as if I do well, I should be in the reckoning in the national side. ‘’
On his stint in the India A team, Vihari said the coach Rahul Dravid was of big help to him. “He has been a calming factor. He is there whenever a player needs him. He is tactically and technically brilliant. We get to learn a lot from him.’’
Vihari pointed out that coach Sanath Kumar, a former Karnataka all-rounder, has brought a refreshing change in the team. “He is a positive factor. He is a calming influence. He understands the game and situation. The players feel very comfortable with him. ‘’
The captain said the seam attack will be their main strength. “Led by Vijay Kumar, Shashikant, Karthik Raman, Aiyyappa, we have got quality bowling attack. We are very optimistic this season. We have a chance to make big strides.’’