FOLLOWING a hectic few weeks training with the Mumbai Indians,the last fortnight or so has been a strange lull period for Sushant Marathe. Being part of an IPL franchise that boasts of arguably the most star-studded roster in the tournament can have its negative effects. In the case of Marathe,and many other local players,it’s mainly to do with very limited opportunities and long hours warming the bench. It’s not surprising then that Marathe has been desperate for some cricket action,even if it’s not on the grandest T20 stage of them all. By the time the Mumbai Indians had landed in Kolkata for their next league encounter against the Knight Riders,Marathe was padding up to open the innings for Air-India in the Times Shield A Division final at the MIG club ground on Monday. And the aggressive left-hander showed how famished he’s been to get bat to ball,smashing a stroke-filled 146 against Tata Sport Club to take his team to 394 for 6 at stumps on Day One. At the other end another IPL bench-warmer,Dheeraj Jadhav,who’s officially a part of Pune Warriors,too helped himself to a century against a hapless Tata attack.
It’s just been that kind of season for Marathe. Till two years ago,the 27-year-old had worked his way up the pecking order to hold a place as Mumbai’s No.1 wicket-keeper in domestic cricket. Yet,injury and a failure to convert starts meant that he never quite cemented his spot and kept the door ajar for other contenders to sneak in whenever the opportunity came their way. And despite a decent run of form in the local tournaments,Marathe couldn’t quite force the selectors into handing him a comeback. It was Aditya Tare who benefited the most,scoring runs and displaying a safe pair of hands behind the wickets.
“This was my seventh hundred of the season. I can only hope now that I can carry this form into the next season as well. Getting a chance in the MI side looks tough at the moment but I am not giving up hope yet, says Marathe.
Not for the first time season,Tare has been favoured over Marathe in a Mumbai outfit,and it’s the younger of the two who has been traveling with the team as understudy to Dinesh Karthik. I knew I wasn’t going to Kolkata so I decided to play this game. Match practice always helps,I will join the MI team when they are back here on the 25th, he points out. On hindsight it turned out to be a great call for Marathe,and it was a knock played out against a quality Tata attack that included the likes of Ramesh Powar,Usman Malvi and Wilkin Mota.
This innings will keep my confidence intact. I don’t know when I will get a chance in the IPL but it is always important to continue a good run with the bat, he explains. Eventually,it was the 175-run opening stand between left-handers,Marathe and Jadhav,which gave Air India the base to build on. While Jadhav fell by the wayside,Marathe added another 152 runs with Prashant Naik to keep Tata SC on the ropes.
Brief scores: Air-India 394 for 6 (Dhiraj Jadhav 104,Sushant Marathe 146,Prashant Naik 76) vs Tata Sports Club.