Rajasthan came into the Irani Cup with the odds firmly stacked against them. Rest of India’s team-sheet read like the India reserves’,while the Ranji Champions depleted in both batting and bowling looked like the Rajasthan reserves. And then there was this recent history that ROI had won on the last six occasions.
To prevent that history from repeating,Rajasthan,who were 354 runs in arrears by Day Three evening,needed divine intervention. Resuming at 47/1 on Day Four,they ought to have summoned every bit of their survival instinct to live to fight another day.
Easier said than done,for when push came to shove,Rajasthan self-destructed. The almighty,of course,stayed away.
As the under-19 star,left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh,dismissed Madhur Khatri,who holed out at long on,Rajasthan packed up at 275,succumbing to an innings and 79 runs defeat. In the series of crushing losses that ROI have been inflicted upon their opponents since 2006,this one is by far the most humiliating. Here,however,one would be tempted to say that it was Rajasthan that defeated Rajasthan.
Harmeet ended up with four wickets and Pragyan Ojha took two,but what really hurt Rajasthan’s resistance were three hare-brained run-outs at the most inopportune moments. And unlike three of Harmeet’s and one of Ojha’s scalps,these were all recognised batsmen. “It was tragic and comic at the same time,” summed up Hrishikesh Kanitkar,skipper of the vanquished.
Kanitkar himself was involved in two of those. The first one came in the morning when Rajasthan were 70/1; Kanitkar sent back Vineet Saxena after the batsman had reached a point of no return. But misfortunes never come singly. Robin Bist,who scored a century in the first innings,joined Kanitkar and the duo blunted the Rest attack,adding 95 runs from 27 overs. Soon,there was a re-enactment of the first run-out post lunch,only this time Kanitkar,who was looking as defiant as he was solid,found himself short after being sent back midway.
Lapse in concentration
“Maybe it was a loss of concentration,” said Kanitkar,who made 73. “It has never happened to me in three seasons. It happened here.” Twice. And soon it was third time unlucky for the team as Dinesh Yagnik brought it upon himself while attempting an impossible third.
In between,Ojha took what was the first wicket by a bowler on the day when he crashed through Bist’s otherwise compact defence. It was Ojha’s first wicket of the match as well,one that came after 46 overs of toil. Perhaps it was because of that or that someone called Harbhajan Singh has started taking wickets again,but Ojha let rip a celebratory roar that was incongruous to the magnitude of his ‘feat’.
After the fall of Bist,who made 67 and was the lone bright spot for the Ranji champions during the match,a fifth day looked unlikely and Yagnik’s subsequent lapse of reason put tea under severe threat. Harmeet,who was largely anonymous for the better part of four days,got into his groove against the Rajasthan tail.
The comparisons with Bishen Singh Bedi,at this stage,are excessive to say the least,even though Harmeet showed promise in patches. Observed Kanitkar: “Harmeet has the potential,if he does the hard yards,he might reach where he wants to be.”
Another bowler who was being closely monitored throughout the match was a fit-again Ishant Sharma. He also showed flashes of brilliance,although they too were few and far between. The paceman took none on Monday,but three in the match. And each of his wickets showed why he needs to be persisted with. These were deliveries that could’ve dismissed the best,each time it was bowled.
Ishant’s pace partner,Umesh Yadav,though,was way off the mark. He was guilty of bowling too short,too often. ROI’s Cheteshwar Pujara nevertheless glossed over his pacers’ performance. “I am happy with all three of them (Stuart Binny being the third.) Apart from one session on Day One,when they bowled short,” the captain said.
However,how they bowled hardly mattered. In the end,even Pujara would admit,Rest won the contest with the bat. Rajasthan,on the other hand,fell way short of both the crease and expectations.
Brief scores: Rajasthan 253 & 275 all out (H Kanitkar 73,R Bist 67,Harmeet 4/45) vs ROI 607/7 d