Just under 3weeks ago, I had written about cricket pitches and TN bowlers. Unfortunately, both have come to haunt Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Final.
I wrote on December 29 that having already qualified for the knock out, Tamil Nadu think tank chose to bat a 2nd time in its match against Madhya Pradesh on the pretext that the TN bowlers needed rest when they should have been raring to go a 2nd time to further build their confidence for the knock out matches. Instead, they wanted rest from bowling another 20overs each in the 2nd innings. And this team has been yearning to win the Ranji Trophy for the last many years!!! On four occasions this season, Tamil Nadu had stood a chance to win outright and yet they ended the league phase with just one win.
Subsequent to the previous story, Tamil Nadu once again chose to bat a 2nd time not enforcing the follow on against Bombay ( Abhishek Nayar and Surya Kumar Yadav could have turned the match in 3hours as the lead was just under 200, said one official justifying the reason for not enforcing the follow on)
The bowlers who sought rest during the league phase, and again in the knock out, have paid the price for it by having to bowl 250overs in one single innings against a team that had two of the top three batsmen at the very end of their career- Akash Chopra and Hrishikesh Kanitkar!!!
It was sad to see Mohinder Amarnath and Narendra Hirwani ( national selectors) sitting in the Terrace watching 180overs of cricket to see if they could spot an India talent. Wonder what they would be thinking now after seeing Aushik Srinivas bowl 88overs and Kaushik bowl almost 50!!! One wonders if Jimmy Amarnath was so frustrated at the quality of cricket that he deemed it fit to return to Delhi at the end of the 2nd day's play leaving Hiru Bhai all alone in the selector's room on Day 3!!!!
After batting for 2 1/2days, Rajasthan went for runs in the 2nd session today- the third day- against a tired and toothless TN attack. And within the first 10overs in the last session of play had knocked the top 3 of the TN top order including two of them LBW, leaving one to wonder as to why Tamil Nadu did not try something different once it was clear for everyone to see that Rajasthan were only defending and had no intent to score.
Waiting Game Strategy
Tamil Nadu played the waiting game as they had done with reasonable success through most of the season but this waiting game plan fell right into the lap of the Rajasthan batsmen.
It is time that Tamil Nadu started playing aggressive cricket of bowling out opposition and going for outright wins rather than be satisfied with 1st innings lead. If the intent is to win Ranji Trophy, one has to play for wins right from the grass root level.
In U-15grade cricket, one sees dour draws. In 1st division league, sometimes even one innings is not completed (Yes no time to prepare good sporting wickets). I guess this would be the same excuse given for the wicket provided for the Ranji final as well.
Sources in TN cricket told me that they were shocked at the pitch provided for the final. Home team had 3fast bowlers (who had bowled reasonably well through most of the season) and 2spinners and 4 batsmen knocking on the doors of international cricket. And yet, for some reason, it was deemed fit to provide a slow, no bounce wicket for the Ranji Finals that seemed tailor made for Akash Chopra and team.
On day 2, one of the senior officials of TNCA commented that he had just seen the match at Wankhade earlier this month and spoke so excitedly about that wicket. It had something for every body he said. ‘ A team could get all out on day 1 for 150 and the 2nd team could be 100 for 5 and still score 350 if 1-2of the batsmen put their head down and stroked the ball. Can this be said of the chepauk wicket, he questioned.’
He simply did not understand the logic behind the slow wicket provided for the Final. Forget home advantage, how would this contribute to good cricket.
A lady who had come all the way from the UK to watch the Ranji final and who stayed through the whole of the first 3days could not believe the quality of cricket she saw. She said she has seen domestic cricket across countries but nothing as bad as the cricket she has seen this week here at Chepauk.
And what about the bowling itself? Yes the pitch was slow and the batting was dour. And the bowlers could ask as to what they could do when the batsmen were so intent on defence for 200overs.
But did the TN bowlers try variations. Did they try and induce the batsmen to play strokes. For example, could Aushik have bowled without a cover/extra cover for a few overs to get Akash or Vineet to drive in a bid to change the batsmen’s mindset.
Could Kaushik or Mahesh have bowled without a Mid off for a few overs to see if the openers went for the boundary shot down the field?
One did not see L Balaji try anything different during the long period of 250overs. He waited and waited for the odd good ball or for the batsmen to make a mistake instead of trying out things against the defensive batsmen.
For the moment we will hope, against hope, that Dinesh Karthik will score a triple hundred to see TN home on day 5. But it is more likely that you will find Kanitkar lifting the Ranji Trophy for the 2nd year in a row. And he will owe TN a big thanks for playing into their ( Rajasthan’s) hands.