A tale of two oldies; that was the first day’s play in microcosm. Anustup Majumdar played arguably the innings of his life to keep Bengal in the game. Abhimanyu Mithun bowled the ball of the day to remove Shahbaz Ahmed, when the left-hander was threatening to take the game away from Karnataka. Majumdar is 35 years old and Mithun is 30. Old is gold.
In 2016, Majumdar resigned from his job at Indian Railways and returned to Bengal. The team was in search of a dependable middle-order batsman and then Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary initiated the move to bring Majumdar back, along with spin-bowling allrounder Arnab Nandi. Majumdar always had the game, what he needed was confidence boost. This term, he benefited from Bengal head coach Arun Lal’s positive vibes and also a demanding pre-season that significantly raised the team’s collective fitness level. At 35, Majumdar looks fighting fit.
And he is enjoying a second wind. In the quarterfinal against Odisha, his match-winning 157, coming at 46/5 in the first innings, had been terrific. But Karnataka was a different ball game and on Saturday at Eden Gardens, the hosts were reeling at 67/6 after being sent in on a greenish pitch. They finished the day on 275/9, with Majumdar unbeaten on 120. Coming into the season, the senior batsman had seven centuries in 56 first-class matches. Into his 63rd match at this level, Majumdar now has nine hundreds. Back-to-back centuries in the quarterfinal and semifinal had been preceded by a 99 against Delhi.
But quitting a permanent job was never easy. Majumdar did it because he wanted to play for his home state. Here, at times, he wasn’t given the backing that he deserved. But Majumdar hung on. “I just kept working hard, kept motivating myself. There was no other motivation. Maybe, I have mellowed down and the sense or grief and frustration have lessened,” he said after the day’s play.
And what an innings he played! The Bengal top-order failed yet again. Tiwary, too, fell cheaply. Both Sudip Chatterjee and Shreevats Goswami were out leg-before, playing across the line. Majumdar, on the other hand, executed his plans perfectly against the Karnataka bowling attack comprising Mithun, Prasidh Krishna, Ronit More and K Gowtham. All along, he was flawless.
Bengal took the attack to the opposition, when Ahmed came and started playing fearless cricket. A special delivery from Mithun, from around the wicket, castled him – the ball came in with the angle before straightening. It could have gotten any left-hander out. But a 72-run seventh wicket partnership initiated the hosts’ fightback, while Akash Deep played a lovely hand and added 103 runs with Majumdar for the eighth wicket. Both Ahmed and Akash, though, survived dropped chances.
Coming back to Mithun, apart from bowling a beauty to Ahmed, he took two more wickets to return as Karnataka’s most successful bowler on the opening day.
Brief Scores: Bengal 275/9 (Anustup Majumdar 120 not out, Akash Deep 44; Shahbaz Ahmed 35; Abhimanyu Mithun 3/65) vs Karnataka.
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