Ranji Trophy 2016-17: Shahbaz Nadeem takes setbacks in his stride

Shahdab Nadeem took another five-wicket haul to reduce Haryana to 251/7 on Day One of Ranji quarters.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Baroda | Updated: December 24, 2016 10:04 am
Shahbaz Nadeem, nadeem, ranji trophy, nadeem, Shahbaz Nadeem Delhi Daredevils, jharkhand vs haryana, jharkhand haryana ranji trophy, Ranji Trophy 2016-17, Ranji Trophy, jharkhand, jharkhand spinner, cricket news, sports news With 44 scalps, Shahbas Nadeem is the highest wicket taker this season in Ranji Trophy. Express Photo by Bhupendra Rana

IN August this year, Shahbaz Nadeem’s travel plans to Australia came unstuck unexpectedly. He was part of the India A squad set to leave for the quadrangular tournament Down Under. The visa was done and the bags were packed when suddenly he was informed that he and Naman Ojha wouldn’t be going. They instead were now only scheduled to go for the two four-day games that followed the one-dayers. Not that Nadeem isn’t used to rejections. But this one was particularly harder to swallow.

So commonplace have they become for the Jharkhand left-arm spinner that he admits to ‘omissions and rejections’ being part of his daily life. In March this year, Nadeem didn’t find a place in the final XI of the Rest of India team for the Irani Trophy despite finishing as the highest wicket-taker in the 2015-16 Ranji season with 51 wickets at 19.62. It wasn’t a breakthrough performance by any means.

Nadeem has after all been among the most consistent performers with the ball in domestic cricket over the last few years. And not surprisingly, he’s been awaiting a national call, even admitting to sitting up in front of the TV every time the Indian squad is about to be announced, hoping to see his name flash up on the screen. He’s still waiting though, with his hopes beginning to fade ever so slightly.

On Friday at the Motibagh ground in Baroda, it was business as usual for Nadeem as he ran amok through the Haryana top-order to finish with yet another five-wicket haul. He missed out on a sixth by dropping a return catch off Harshal Patel. It meant Haryana were reduced to 251/7 at the end of the first day’s play in the quarterfinal. It also meant Nadeem had once again climbed to the top of the charts, taking his tally for this season to 44 wickets. But it’s difficult to miss the cynicism in his tone when he wonders aloud about whether his performance will make the headlines. You can’t blame him though.

“Chotte shehar se khelna ka dikat hai toh sahi. (Playing for a small team has its disadvantages for sure). Your performances don’t get noticed too much, even the media doesn’t highlight them. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes you get angry. Nobody watches our games. Do you know how tough it is to keep performing with the same momentum?.” It’s a valid grouse. But Nadeem doesn’t wait for your response to his inquiry.

“I don’t believe in nets sessions instead I have given more emphasis on playing games. Every time I feel depressed, I just go out and play matches,” he says.

It’s no secret that Jharkhand aren’t the most high-profile team in the country. Their claim to fame still lingers around being the base of MS Dhoni. He’s the one after all who put Jharkhand on the cricketing map.

The likes of Varun Aaron and Saurabh Tiwary have come through the ranks and played international cricket intermittently. But Dhoni still remains their perpetual poster-boy.

Nadeem made his first-class debut as a 15-year-old in December 2004 in a match which had Dhoni in the line-up. The future superstar of Indian cricket was still a couple of weeks away from his international debut, and he only ever appeared on two more occasions in the Ranji Trophy. Dhoni was named mentor of the Jharkhand team at the start of the season but hasn’t made the trip to Baroda for the quarterfinal.

Away from spotlight

In the dozen years since, Nadeem has snared 290 wickets—including the five here—at 29 apiece. But most of those wickets have either come away from the glare of the spotlight or have been looked at with suspicious eyes, with pitches and home advantage propping up as routine disclaimers. But here we are in the first-ever trail with neutral venues, and Nadeem still sits on top.

In the dozen years since, Nadeem has snared 290 wickets—including the five here—at 29 apiece. But most of those wickets have either come away from the glare of the spotlight or have been looked at with suspicious eyes, with pitches and home advantage propping up as routine disclaimers. But here we are in the first-ever trail with neutral venues, and Nadeem still sits on top.

Nadeem was brought into play early here owing to an unfortunate injury to seamer Ashish Kumar. He struck right away removing opener Shubham Rohilla before adding Nitin Saini to his kitty a while later.

He wheeled away in typical fashion, hardly giving anything away with his accurate left-arm spin, and keeping the Haryana batsmen under pressure. The quarterfinal is being televised, and that simple fact gives Nadeem an additional reason to hope. To believe that he might still be in with a shot to one day don India colours.

“My job is to keep performing and keep trying. My father says age is on my side. I should not worry. Till when can they keep the door closed, ek din darwaza tootega zaroor,” he says.

Brief scores: Haryana: 251 for seven in 90 overs (Rajat Paliwal 42, Chirag Bishnoi 41; Shahbaz Nadeem 5/75).

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