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Mumbai'S practice session was almost on the verge of completion at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai | Published:February 22, 2012 3:16 am

Mumbai’s practice session was almost on the verge of completion at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. But nobody could have convinced Iqbal Abdulla to not pad up for a second time in the morning for a hurried ‘knocking’ session. Even the searing heat didn’t seem to matter. Having had to warm the bench during his team’s knockout matches of the Ranji Trophy,Abdulla can be pardoned for the mini-anxiety attack. Though his bowling still remains the 22-year-old’s primary forte,enhancing his standing in the team with his all-round ability would only seem natural after having seen his place in the longer format being usurped by Ankeet Chavan.

While Abdulla was trying his best to make a good impression in the Mumbai practice area,another member of his ilk,who only last season had hogged the headlines,was busy sharpening his fielding skills along with his Baroda teammates. If Abdulla had made himself a household name with his IPL exploits,Bhargav Bhatt had earned renown for ending up as the highest wicket-taker in India’s premier domestic tournament around this time last year.

The two left-arm tweakers,however,have spent the last few months more as cheer-men rather than premier spinners for their respective teams,and have been busier carrying drinks rather than spinning yarns around the opposition batsmen. And the next week or so in the city will provide the best opportunity for Abdulla and Bhatt to redeem themselves in the West Zone leg of the Vijay Hazare Trophy,starting with the Mumbai-Baroda clash at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday.

“I’m confident that I will be back to my best form. It’s just a matter of time. After the Ranji Trophy,I played a few local games and there too I came up with decent performances. The next one week will be crucial for me,” explains Abdulla.

And with senior spinner Ramesh Powar—who has been replaced by wicket-keeper batsman Aditya Tare—out injured,new Mumbai skipper Ajit Agarkar has already revealed that going in with two left-arm spinners will be his team’s most expected strategy.

Abdulla took 13 wickets in five games for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy this season before Chavan grabbed his opportunity in the final league game. And he made the most of it,scoring 73 and taking four wickets against Punjab followed by a century in the quarter-finals against Madhya Pradesh in Indore. It were these performances that led to Abdulla being sidelined.

Meanwhile,Bhatt too went through his phase of second season blues like many other bowlers before him in domestic cricket. His wickets tally of five in four games not only was a serious letdown for his team,Baroda soon decided to replace him with all-rounder Swapnil Singh.

Those in the know,blame the influence of T20 cricket for Bhatt struggling to replicate his success from the first season. He no longer focuses on flighting the ball,and rather depends largely on bowling flat and trying to restrict the batsmen—in stark contrast to his tactics from last year.

Baroda captain Pinal Shah,however,is confident of Bhatt regaining his lost form and confidence.

“It happens with every cricketer. He was our main bowler last season where he took more than 40 wickets in the Ranji Trophy. Like any cricketer,Bhatt will fight his way out of this tough phase. The talent is very obviously there,” says Shah.

However,while the two lefties try to re-cement their spots in their respective teams,the major focus during the contest is set to be the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel,two India caps returning from injury—and a duo desperate for a recall into the national team. Munaf for one has always reserved his best for his former team Mumbai. It is here after all that he made his first-class debut back during the 2003-04 season. And now having rehabilitated at the National Cricket Academy over the last few weeks,he is raring to go.

Mohnish looks to bounce back

Having spent a long time in the wilderness after being called for chucking,young Gujarat off- spinner Mohnish Parmar is all set to start afresh with a new bowling action. The 23-year-old,who had modeled his bowling action on Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan,had taken 92 wickets in 20 first class games at an astonishing average of 18.42 after making his debut against Assam in 2007. However,after being called for having an illegal bowling action in an Elite division Ranji Trophy match against Saurashtra at Surat in November 2010,he was forced to take a break from the game to work on his bowling.

“My action was first reported soon after the U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2006. Following this,I went to the (Bangalore-based) National Cricket Academy to correct my action. In fact,I was the first bowler who went to the NCA to rectify such a problem,” said Parmar on Tuesday.

He is part of the Gujarat team for the West Zone one- day tournament for the Vijay Hazare Trophy to be held in the city.

However,the game against Saurashtra changed his life as the chucking call forced him to completely modify his bowling action.

“It has been a difficult time for me. I’ve worked very hard on my new action. Since I liked Muralitharan,I earlier tried to bowl like him with a cross-run up. That way I could turn the ball anywhere,my ‘doosra’ was very affective,and I was able to bag a lot of wickets.”

“I now have a straight run-up and a straight bowling action. But with this action,I rely more on the surface for turn,I may not be able to bag a big haul of wickets like before,” Parmar said.

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