Just a week ago, Shreenath Aravind decimated an experienced Delhi batting line-up with his brand of medium-paced swing bowling. On that occasion at the Eden Gardens, the list of his five victims (four in the first innings and a solitary scalp in the second) included skipper Gautam Gambhir who had recently made a come-back to the Indian team. And with the 32-year-old in the mood to effect similar damage for Karnataka in their latest Ranji Trophy match at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s BKC Ground in Mumbai, there wasn’t much the minnows Assam could do.
Subsequently, Aravind ended the first day with five wickets.
Interestingly enough, while his performances on the domestic circuit has had him rightfully attract the attention of the national team selectors in the One-Day or T20 squads, he has largely gone unnoticed when it comes to the longer form of the game.
Over the years, Aravind has been a part of the ‘golden generation’ of Karnataka cricket in the domestic circuit. Especially since his performances have helped his team win successive trebles – Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Irani Cup – in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
During this time, the national team was in search of a new bowling attack to replace the elder guard of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. Aravind, being a left-armer like the veteran greats before him became a natural option. Injuries and inconsistency though, led to a downfall. In fact, while he was in the running to make an ODI debut in 2011, he managed to win his only international cap, in a T20, as recently as 2015. Still, he doesn’t find the lack of chances ‘unfair.’ “I’d say it is more to do with my bowling. I’ll get more chances if I bowl better,” he says.
In the Indian Premier League meanwhile, he continues to be in the reckoning among the top-wicket taker lists. Just as he does in the Rani Trophy.
He was dropped in Karnataka’s opening game of the season, a draw against Jharkhand, but included in the following outright win against Delhi. On the first day against Assam, he teased his opposition with a mixture of late swinging deliveries that often left batsmen in two minds. And once his opening partner Abhimanyu Mithun had to leave the field due to a groin injury after bowling just 10 deliveries, the onus of picking up wickets fell on Aravind. “We knew Karnataka’s bowling strength was in its pace. Once Mithun was out, we only needed to hold off Aravind,” explains Assam batsman Amit Verma.
Openers Rishav Das and Rahul Hazarika decided to exact cover drives on deliveries that shifted outside at the last moment – edging their attempts to the steady hands of Robin Uthappa at second slip. Later on KB Arun Karthick decided to leave a ball pitched outside off, only for the ball to cut in late and nick the off-stump itself. “He’s been able to pitch the ball in the right areas and he’s also had the skill to make it swing both ways,” Verma adds.
The only saving grace for Assam’s challenge was Verma’s performance, incidentally Verma was part of the victorious Karnataka team in the 2014 season.
Walking in to bat at number four, with just five on the board, the left-hander rescued his side with a well-structured and gritty 125 off 259. The 29-year-old kept losing partners regularly though, until Sarupam Purkayastha came in at number eight.
A dogged 56 off 88 by the lower order batsman saw him forge a strong 102-run partnership with Verma to end the day’s play. Still, Verma’s experience of sharing the dressing room with Aravind will have him alert his teammates about the bowler’s credentials. “My own strategy was to just play him off and attack the other bowlers. That’s what we’ll have to do,” he concludes.
Brief Scores: Assam 268/6 (Amit Verma 125 not out, Sarupam Purkayastha 56 not out; Sreenath Aravind 5/49, Stuart Binny 1/67) vs Karnataka.