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Friday, October 16, 2015

Manan Sharma takes 5 for ~ connecting him with Chepauk

At Chepauk in Jan 1988 – a Pongal Test  -  India won an important toss, made 382.  Hirwani took three of the five West Indian wickets to fall on the second day. On the third morning, Hirwani clean-bowled Vivian Richards with a googly  went on to  finish at  8 for 61; in the Second against a huge target of 416, Vivian Richard’s WI were dismissed in 40 overs.  Hirwani was the wrecker-in-chief again with 8 for 75 and overall match figures of 16 for 136.  Sadly, Chepuak was to become a batsmen’s paradise with hundreds and doubles flowing later……..

Though he started in the most exciting manner equalling Massie-  [Australian - Robert Arnold Lockyer Massie] Hiru could not match his great opening – some said he was too slow in the air to cause trouble, except on wickets which turned sharply.  In the last league match of the 1991–92 World Series Cup,  India needed to beat West Indies to qualify for the final. Hirwani had Brian Lara stumped off a flipper and Richie Richardson leg before wicket.   Years later, he was to play a Test against New Zealand and took 6 for 59; toured England in 1996; in 2001 was in the squad when Aussies toured – remember Harbhajan was successful in that series.

At Feroz Shah Kotla in Ranji Group A – Haryana were bundled out for 195. Virender Sehwag flattered to deceive – was run out for 37 – for Delhi, the most successful bowler is Manan Sharma whose figures read 27.1-9-57-5.  Manan has thus far played in 12 Ranji matches – scored 3 half centuries and has taken 41 wickets with best being 8/33.  He is a leftarm bat and slow leftarm spinner.

A search in Cricinfo revealed that his father, a right hander made 10000 runs in Ranji, was part of Indian team that toured West Indies in 1989, Pakistan and New Zealand a year later. He played three matches in West Indies, two in New Zealand and none at all in Pakistan. This was the time when he was a candidate for the slot of utility man in the Indian team (he bowled slow left arm spinners).  He represented India in  31 ODI's scoring 424 runs at an average of 20.19 with a highest score of 59 not out. Four times, three in successive seasons, he topped the 1000 run mark in first class cricket. And in 1996-97 he became only the third batsman to score over 1000 runs in a single Ranji Trophy season. His career average of just over 80 in the national competition is second only to Merchant's 98.35.

Not many may recall instantly - Ajay Sharma has been a bit unlucky. His 38 first class centuries - a record 31 in the Ranji Trophy alone - in 160 innings compares favourably with any other batsman, save Bradman. So like many other powerhouses of Ranji, he too faded away.   Akash Sharma once wrote that Ajay Sharma rarely ever wore a helmet. There were some reasonably quick bowlers around, like Delhi's Robin Singh Jr , Punjab's Harvinder Singh and Sandeep Sharma, and Jammu & Kashmir's Abdul Qayoom, but none of them could perturb Sharma with pace and bounce. He wasn't one to duck or sway away against bouncers; he would happily take them on, his square cuts, pulls and hooks bringing him the majority of his runs. One of his best innings - came against Railways on a dustbowl at the Karnail Singh Stadium in 1997. One look at the surface suggested a two-day finish - it seemed the curator had forgotten to water and roll the pitch for the game.

Towards the end of his career, Sharma's alleged involvement in match-fixing tarnished his image forever. The runs he scored and the attacks he dominated meant nothing anymore. So he ended up statistically playing a solitary Test scoring 53 runs – in 31 One dayers he made 424 and took 15 wickets.

In that famous Pongal Test, alongside Hirwani, there were 3 more debutants- Phil Simmons, Woorkeri Raman and Ajay Sharma.   Ajay walked in with score at 156/5 had a 113 partnership with Kapil Dev (who made 109) – yet never played a Test again. 

In ODI 823 against Zimbabwe at Pune, India chasing 235 won comfortably by 8 wickets.  Navjot Sidhu made 45, WV Raman made 66.  Vinod Kambli (47) and Ajay Sharma (59) remained unbeaten taking hosts through.  Surprisingly, Vinod Kambli was the Man of the Match. 

Years later in Dec 1988, against New Zealand at Indore – India made 222 and won comfortably by 53 runs.  Dashing opener VB Chandrasekhar made 53; Ajay Sharma made 52 off 47 balls [3 fours and 3 sixers].  The bowling hero was opener Krish Srikkanth [who made 23] claimed 5 wickets :6-0-32-5 – that was not good enough – Ajay Sharma was the Man of the Match.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

16th Oct 2015.

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