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    Hard work helped me bounce back, says Odisha batsman Natraj Behera

    New Delhi: This Ranji Trophy season was a quiet one for Natraj Behera until the match against Mumbai last week at the Wankhede Stadium, where he slammed hundreds in both the innings to force a draw for Odisha.

    Natraj scored a 184-ball 130 in the first innings and then in the second an unbeaten 127 to deny Mumbai a win. In the previous match against Delhi at Sambalpur, he got a score of 158 off 290 balls.

    Two poor outings against Punjab and Vidarbha got him dropped for two matches, but Natraj took it positively. He focused on his batting and worked hard in the nets to get among the runs in the games against Delhi and Mumbai.

    "It was a tough time for me to sit out but I took that in my stride and got some time to think about my batting. I also worked hard in the nets and that helped me bounce back," Natraj said.

    Moreover, Odisha's move of opening the innings with Natraj has helped the 25-year-old batsman, who batted at number three last season.

    "The regular openers were not doing that well and I was asked to open and the move clicked for me. When I got to know that I will be playing the Delhi match, I was prepared for the challenge and wanted to grab the oportunity with both hands," Natraj said.

    Talking about his two back-to-back tons against Mumbai, Natraj said his focus was to stay in the middle and see off the new ball. "My focus was to spend more time at the crease irrespective of the conditions and see off the new ball, which later helped and I was able to play my natural strokes. By watching Wasim Jaffer also helped me as he played with a straight bat throughout his innings of 143."

    Odisha hold a slim chance of making it to the quarter-finals stage from Group A, but a lot will depend on how Natraj bats in their last league matches.