It would be unfair to call the Jammu & Kashmir outfit a one-man side. But so overwhelming is his influence and so distinct his standing in terms of his team, that you could mistake them for being one. After all, for the last two years, Parvez Rasool’s name has almost been synonymous with J&K cricket. To the extent that even the many heroes that have emerged from the valley this season have had to be content with playing under the shadow of their poster-boy. Not that they have had any complaints about it.
On Thursday, as Rasool walked into bat, his team was under the pump. The Punjab seamers had sent their top-order packing for not much. The score read 62/3, with J&K still well over 200 runs in the deficit. Many had feared before the quarterfinal that J&K would be shown their place by a star-studded Punjab in the biggest match of their lives.
Those fears were coming true here in Moti Bagh. The J&K skipper did receive brief support from opener Adil Rishi as he stroked his way to 65. But Rishi’s departure was followed by a sudden collapse. Now only Rasool realistically stood between Harbhajan Singh’s men running roughshod over their under-rated opponents. Here he was back in the spotlight again.
Not for the first time, Rasool showed that he doesn’t mind being there with a sparkling century that brought his team right back into the match. By the time he became one of Sandeep Sharma’s four victims on the day, the 24-year-old had made 103 and taken his team to within 50 runs of Punjab’s first innings total. Eventually, J&K would reach 277. By stumps, they had evened the odds by snaring the Punjab openers with just 15 on the board, leaving the contest on an even keel with three days to go.
Though known more for his aggressive approach, Rasool was a tad more subdued here. The pitch itself might not have possessed too many demons but the Punjab seamers were accurate with Harbhajan getting the ball to bounce on the batsmen. The pressure too was unremitting. And Rasool seemed focused more on playing himself in when Rishi was still around.
He did smash a couple of boundaries but his innings was built mainly on rotating the strike. But he changed gear as soon as the 81-run stand with Rishi was broken, even if he had only managed 31 by then.
There was support on offer from Samiulluh Beigh, and Rasool made the most of it. He dominated the 87-run stand. Even his counterpart wasn’t spared, as the right-hander steered him for two boundaries. Rasool had scored a century already this season.
This one though was against an elite outfit and with his own team’s reputation on the line. He got there with two boundaries off VRV Singh. And it was clear that this one also meant a lot more to Rasool.
Brief scores: Punjab 304 & 15/2 vs J&K 277 all out (P Rasool 103, A Rishi 65, S Beigh 37, S Sharma 4/46, M Gony 2/70, VRV Singh 2/65)