By Sriram Veera
Couple of visuals at dusk captured the state of play and the mood in Mumbai and Jammu & Kashmir’s camps at the end of a fascinating see-sawing day at Wankhede stadium that left J&K dreaming about a triumph, and Mumbai fretting about its state of cricket.
Wasim Jaffer sat peering out from the team balcony with the knowledge that his hairline fracture has ruled him out of the next three Ranji games, a development that will certainly hurt this team a lot. Down below, and long after Jaffer had retreated into the dressing room, Mumbai’s coach Pravin Amre was involved in an animated talk with two selectors Milind Rege and Sanjay Patil.
During the first couple of the numerous laps around the arena that the trio took, they passed a buoyant set of J&K’s players, taking knock downs or chatting away in a group.
And if they had looked up, they would have spotted Shubham Khajuria sitting quietly in his team’s balcony. With nine wickets left, and a further 179 runs required , J&K would need Khajuria to convert his 34 into something more substantial and also, need a sparkling knock from their captain Parvez Rasool.
They need someone to produce a knock like what Suryakumar Yadav came up with on Tuesday to help Mumbai recover from 57 for 4 and set a target of 237. Yadav is the man who has his critics frothing at their mouths. They see a batsman who has the shots but who has them sighing in frustration at how he deploys them in match situations.
A small repertoire at least clears out confusion about how to react to a delivery. When you know you can respond with more than a shot to a particular ball, without clarity of mind and a sense of maturity to assess match situations, it can all go pear-shaped. It has often occurred with Yadav in the past. The men in power have decided to try out a different tack with Yadav this season. They named him the captain. Responsibility can occasionally coax self-discovery and hasten maturity.
The result has been mixed so far but Tuesday, though, was a day of hope. Rarely did he play a false shot or show an urge to do something other than the demands of the ball.
Standing with his bat raised to his hip, as seems to be the case with many young batsmen these days, a fascinating development in itself, and a leg-stump guard, he likes to glide forward towards the ball. He started cautiously, patting and tapping here and there, before he pressed on. There wasn’t much of a test on a third-day pitch or from the bowling, and he was up and away soon.
The 11th over of the day had him driving and clipping Ram Dayal to the long-on and midwicket boundaries. His fifty arrived in the morning in 61 balls —a pace that he kept up till the end, helped along with by the bowling errors.
Waseem Raza, the left-arm spinner, was often short, at times such deliveries would come in a sequence within a over. Once, there were three in a single over to Yadav, who ensured the ball had to be retrieved twice from the midwicket boundary. Yadav wasn’t the lone man fighting yesterday as the night-watchman Dhawal Kulkarni punctuated his resolute defense with a break-free big shot. He soaked up the pressure for 204 minutes, allowing Yadav to swell the partnership to 152 from 283 balls, and Mumbai to recover from a perilous position.
Nazir double strike
However, since this is the brittle Mumbai, the game yanked wide open soon. It was the tall seamer Umar Nazir who bent his back to produce two deliveries with some bounce from short of length to remove both Yadav and Kulkarni. Both were caught poking and the resultant edges swallowed crisply by an alert Bandeep Singh in slips.
Revived by the twin blow, Ram Dayal stepped up by taking three wickets — a full ball to trap Abhishek Nayar lbw, a smart caught-and-bowled effort to remove Vishal Dabholkar and clattering of the stumps behind Iqbal Abdullah.
Mumbai could have made their task easier if either Yadav or Kevin Almeida, at first and second slip, had reacted better to a chance offered by Khajuria.
On 20, he poked at a Kulkarni delivery but both the fielders looked at each other even as the ball sailed at a catchable height between them. Undoubtedly, more such dramatic little match-turning moments will arrive on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see which team holds its nerves better.
A team with history or the team that wants to create one?
Brief Scores: Mumbai: 236 & 254 (Suryakumar Yadav 115, Dhawal Kulkarni 37; Ram Dayal 5/76, Umar Nazir 4/49) vs J&K: 254 & 58 for one in 87 overs (Sbhubham Khajuria 34 batting).
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