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And while his team would try hard they would end up perennial underdogs of the first class system, with Yashpal himself shouldering most of the burden. This year the message to the team was the same, only it was someone else giving it. Feeling the need to get more out of their strongest player, Services decided to hand the captaincy to opener Soomik Chatterjee. For Yashpal, this is only a positive.
“Not having the captaincy doesn’t make much difference. Just maybe on the scoresheet,” he jokes. “I am getting to bat freely after a long time and that makes a big difference.”
The season, however, is progressing much as the previous ones have. And while there have been sporadic contributions from across the team, it is Yashpal who once again has made the big knocks.
The biggest was an unbeaten 250 against Tripura in his last match at Agartala. While also being his highest personal score, it was also the highest ever by any Services cricketer. To give an indication as to his importance in the Services team, the record Yashpal broke was his own, set ten seasons ago. Six of the team’s top ten scores are his. There would be no celebrations though.
Tripura were expected to be easy pickings but ultimately Services struggled to bowl them out and had to be satisfied with just the first innings lead.
In their team’s biggest test yet this season, much is expected of Yashpal, who with 72 first class matches is their second most experienced campaigner.
“He may not be captain on paper but he is one of the most senior members in the team. In the last match, he didn’t just score runs but was also involved in two big partnerships with a couple of the newest members of the team. When things get difficult he often chips in with suggestions,” says manager Deepak Bhaskar.
And while one might expect Yashpal, who will mark his 31st birthday in the Assam tie, to be jaded after having to fulfill so many roles for his struggling side, the Navy man remains upbeat.
“Every year is a fresh start. At the start of each season I am confident that we will be able to advance to the knock-out stage,” he says.