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Friday, March 13, 2020

Jayadev Unadkat leads Saurashtra to title triumph - empty stands !!

The premier championship of India – Ranji Trophy is on – and in all likelihood has been won by Saurashtra, as they secured the much wanted first innings lead. Last year it was Vidarbha.   Much water has flown under the bridge from Mumbai always being the Winner followed by Delhi & Karnataka.  In the last decade it has been : Rajasthan, Rajastan, Mumbai, Karnataka, Karnataka, Mumbai, Gujarat, Vidarbha, Vidarbha and now Saurashtra. Though technically, this is their first ever win of the trophy -  they had played earlier as Nawanagar and Western India. Nawanagar won the Ranji Trophy in 1936-37 and were runners up in 1937-38. Western India won the Ranji Trophy in 1943-44. Saurashtra began competing in the 1950-51 Ranji trophy. They were runners-up in the Ranji Trophy to Mumbai in 2012-13 and 2015-16 and in 2018-19 against Vidarbha.

This region was once known as ‘Kathiawar’ ~ the  word Kathiawad means the land of the Kathis, a Rajput tribe who migrated to the region in the 8th century and controlled the southwestern peninsula of contemporary Gujarat. Before Indian independence in 1947, most of Kathiawar was divided into numerous princely states, ruled by local potentates who acknowledged British suzerainty in return for local sovereignty.   After Indian independence, the Princely  states of Kathiawar acceded to India.  Now it is Saurashtra, also known as Sorath or Kathiawar, is a peninsular region of Gujarat,  located on the Arabian Sea coast. It covers about a third of Gujarat state, notably 11 districts of Gujarat, including Rajkot District.

The Calcutta Test in Feb 1999 was a great crowd puller – it is reported that  around 100,000 turned up on the first four days – crowd’s favourite Sachin Tendulkar clipped  Wasim Akram to deep midwicke took two runs - completing 5000 Test runs in the process - and was on his way back for a third when substitute Nadeem Khan hit the stumps with his throw from the deep. In the ordinary course of events it was a straightforward third run even with the direct hit, but Tendulkar collided with Shoaib Akhtar, who was waiting close to the stumps to gather the return, and as a result was out of his ground, even though he may well have been just inside the crease at the moment of the collision. Steve Bucknor referred it to the third umpire, KT Francis, who, after a long delay, gave him out.  Crowds erupted and eventually Pakistan completed the win with no spectator allowed on the ground !

Kane Richardson is missing  the first ODI between Australia Vs New Zealand at the SCG having been tested for COVID-19 after reporting a mild sore throat to Australia's medical team yesterday. Richardson, who returned from South Africa earlier this week with the rest of the ODI squad, has been isolated for the time being and results of the test are expected this afternoon. If it is negative he will return to the squad.

This morning at an  empty SCG, Aaron Finch decided to bat first as the immediate future of sporting events in Australia looked increasingly doubtful due to the coronavirus pandemic.  New Zealand have opted to include a second frontline spinner in Ish Sodhi with Tim Southee missing out on the XI as he did in the Sydney Test two months ago. Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson, who both picked up injuries during the Test series here, return for their first ODIs since the World Cup final. New Zealand currently hold the Chappell-Hadlee trophy following their series victory in 2017 but have never won a bilateral ODI series in Australia.

Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has denied it was "irresponsible" to play Sunday's women's T20 World Cup final in front of more than 86,000 spectators at the MCG. However, he has acknowledged the potential exposure of many in attendance to the coronavirus helped lead to the decision to play the men's ODI series between Australia and New Zealand in empty stadiums now.  Speaking in Melbourne on Friday morning, Roberts said that CA has been receiving constantly updated advice from health officials in recent days, with Thursday's news that a spectator in the MCC members area of the MCG on Sunday had subsequently been diagnosed with coronavirus contributing to the call to lock crowds out of the three ODI matches, two at the SCG on Friday and Sunday and concluding at Hobart's Bellerive Oval next Friday.

Concerns among Australia's players about potential exposure to coronavirus in front of large crowds of spectators were a factor in Cricket Australia's decision to play the one-day series against New Zealand behind closed doors, with the T20I matches at the end of the month in New Zealand are in doubt. A few hours previously it had been confirmed that the Australia Women's tour of South Africa would not be taking place.

Back home, the Ranji finals is now on between  Saurashtra and Bengal, at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. Dilip Doshi, a noted left-arm spinner of his time,  opined that spin bowling has been deeply impacted by T20 cricket. Spinners need to stick to their strength, he said. “If you have been picked as a spinner, then you got to make sure that you are spinning the ball,” he says. About the current scenario, he says, “Spinners hardly spin the ball. I cannot call somebody a spinner unless he spins the ball. Otherwise, he falls into the category of a slow bowler. Probably there is too much of coaching.

The day 5 was a tense affair.  Hosts Saurashtra dominated in the morning session and managed to win the Ranji Trophy 2019-20 on Day 5 of the final against Bengal. Saurashtra win their maiden title. Fittingly, it’s Jaydev Unadkat who took s the final wicket in what has been a phenomenal season for him. Commiseration to Bengal , whose 30-year-wait continues.  The final day of the Ranji Trophy summit clash between Bengal and Saurashtra is being played without any spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “No public will be allowed on the final day. Only the players, match officials, officials from the host association and media are allowed,” BCCI general manager Saba Karim, who is in charge of domestic cricket, told the media.
Bengal were aiming for their first title since 1989-90 while Saurashtra were eying their maiden trophy. After a drab three days, Thursday had witnessed absorbing action with both teams fighting to take the first innings lead, which effectively decided the Ranji Trophy winner.  Left arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat has taken 67 wickets in 1 matches with 7 – 5 wicket hauls and two 10 wicket hauls.

Interestingly for some part of the match, a single Umpire officiated at both the ends.  C Shamsuddin could take no part  due to f swelling in his lower abdomen arising out of a throw from deep.  For one full session on Tuesday, KN Ananthapadhmanabhan, the other on-field umpire, officiated from both ends, with local umpire Piyush Kakkar doing duty at square leg. The BCCI regulations require the presence of neutral umpires from both ends; Kakkar, being from Rajkot, wasn't allowed to officiate from the main end. S Ravi, the designated third umpire, couldn't take the field as he was the only match official equipped with BCCI's limited DRS available for the match. However, after lunch, Shamsuddin was temporarily slotted in as TV umpire, with Ravi taking the field to comply with BCCI's neutral umpires' criteria.

In the  famed Ranji Trophy, in between it became an unwritten rule that Toss is the most vital. The winner bats first without hesitation, amasses runs - amass runs mostly by staying put, wear down the opponent and  win by First innings lead.   My memory takes back to the finals in 1981/82  at Delhi in March 1982.  Karnataka played first.  Roger Michael Humphrey  Binny scored 115; Brijesh Patel 124, stylish Sudhakar Rao 71, Kirmani 116, Ranjit Kanwilkar 116 – as they were all out after 255 overs making 705. Ranjit Kanwilkar,  an all-rounder was only 21 and was considered to be an exciting prospect, sadly died later in an accident when coaches fell into lake Ashtamudi Kayal in July 1988.  Delhi bowling was in the hands of Madanlal, Mohinder Amarnath,  Maninder (who went for 204 runs), Shukla and Kirti Azad.  Chasing  706 is certainly daunting – but Delhi had other plans.  Raman Lamba scored 36, Gursharan Singh made 101; Surinder Amarnath fell cheaply.  Kirti Azad,  Surinder Khanna, Madanlal all made useful runs – Mohinder was rock steady and made 185.  At one stage Delhi were 589 for 8 -  116 short……….   Shulka made an unbeaten 69 and Rajesh Peter made 67 in an unbroken stand  as Delhi took the lead.  Hapless  Binny, Khanvilkar, Vijaykrishna, Raghuram Bhat all went for 100+. As there was no rule for unfinished match, the match went into the sixth day enabling the hosts to gain first innings lead and mercifully stopped at that. ....

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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