By: Sriram Veera
The smile spills out of his beard. Or so it feels when Parvez Rasool is happy. On some days, the bigger context with its romanticism makes you forget that it’s just a solitary day of cricket and has you gushing breathlessly. Sunday was that kind of a day for Jammu & Kashmir who packed off Mumbai for 236 and held their own with the bat, reaching 88 for 1. Of course, Mumbai cricket’s dominance is reduced to instagrammed nostalgia these days, but 236 all out is still quite something. For both J&K and Mumbai.
Imagine this. Floods destroy homes and your stadiums. You can’t find a place to practice cricket. Heck, it takes days even to find out whether all your cricketers are alive and well. Your state is currently engulfed in a big election. Who really has time for the Ranji cricket season? Luckily, you manage to find one in Nagpur to host a camp for a few days. You have a new coach, who doesn’t have the luxury of time to get to know the players as much as he would like. And your first Ranji fixture is at the Wankhede stadium, where you have never played a game before, against the mighty Mumbai. Only, it’s not mighty any more, of course.
Let’s first get to the best ball of the day. Wasim Jaffer isn’t young anymore but is still Mumbai’s main stay, and it usually requires a ball of some merit to get him on a perfectly fine batting track. The bald-headed Samiullah Beigh managed to produce one such delivery. Much to the surprise of Jaffer, this ball curved in appreciably and late at that — a combo potent enough to produce a hurried prod down the wrong line as the ball titled back the off stump. And Mumbai were 88 for 3 in 24 overs and the slide had begun.
The Jammu-based Ram Dayal Punia exposed the mediocrity of Mumbai on Sunday. Gentle in pace but with the ability to get the ball to wobble it a bit, he had the debutant opener Bravish Shetty drive one straight back to him. In his second spell, incidentally just after Jaffer was dismissed, he slowly started to squeeze the pressure on Aditya Tare. A few balls winked away from the right-hander Tare before one tailed in late, and was fuller than the rest. Tare arrested his forward movement a touch late, almost locking himself in the process, and could only flick a tame catch to the man standing in front of square-leg. Mumbai’s brittleness was showing then at 100 for 4.
On his good batting days, Abhishek Nayar’s posterior, as he threatens to crouch lower than any batsmen have ever gone before in their stance, has been a visible – and one suspects an assuring – landmark for the Mumbai fans in the stands, for he has often dragged his team out of crises. Sunday wasn’t his day, though. He pushed and poked around for an hour, surviving a couple of lbw appeals, before he suddenly decided to punch Dayal through the off-side cordon. The rest of the body didn’t quite follow that impulsive urge of his brain and he ended up pushing away from his body, and the resultant nick was gobbled behind.
Mediocre spell of play
A blur of mediocrity ensued. Though he expressed his unhappiness at the verdict, Shreyas Iyer was strangled down the leg side by the left-arm spinner Waseem Raza while Mumbai’s new captain Suryakumar Yadav was at his wicket-throwing best. He had made a fine fifty before he charged down the track at Raza, only to completely fail to connect with the attempted hoick across the line. More silly dismissals followed – catches to deep midwicket fielders and top-edged slog-sweeps — and Mumbai folded up for 236.
J&K didn’t start well as Adil Reshi swatted a short ball from Shardul Thakur straight to fine-leg but Shubham Khajuria and Bandeep Singh produced mature batting performances to ensure their captain Rasool could continue beaming at the end of the day.
“It does mean a lot to us that we managed to bowl Mumbai out for such a score on this track,” Rasool said. “As you all know , our preparation was affected by floods . but our boys are much more confident, and don’t fear reputations these days. Perhaps my selection to teams like India A is also a reason. Everyone in the team now thinks, ‘I can also do it if I put in enough hard work’.” Not a bad thought, that.
Brief scores: Mumbai 236 all out in 61 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 57, Dhawal Kulkarni 42 not out; Ram Dayal 3/51, Waseem Raza 3/29); J&K 88/1 (Shubham Khajuria 47*, Bandeep Singh 34*).