When Kunwar Bidhuri scored the match-winning knock of 104 for Delhi at the CK Nayudu Trophy fixture against Gujarat in Surat, little did he realise that it would translate into a Ranji Trophy call-up. The following day, he and his team-mates had just landed in Ranchi for their upcoming duel against Jharkhand, when Bidhuri received a phone call from a selector, who asked him to return to Delhi that evening.
Three days later, he made his first-class debut against Punjab at the Feroz Shah Kotla. The all-rounder gave a good account of himself on his debut, top-scoring with 27, even as others struggled against Siddarth Kaul’s superlative exhibition of swing and seam bowling. Delhi lost that match by 10 wickets, but the 23-year-old was dropped after just a solitary appearance. After a fleeting stint with Ranji Trophy, he was drafted back into the U-23 squad for the rest of the season.
Like Bhiduri, Himmat Singh is another player who has made sporadic appearances for the Delhi senior team. Back in 2012, Himmat was billed as the next big thing in junior cricket, scorching his way through junior age-group cricket and peeling off humongous three-digit scores with ridiculous ease. A product of Tarak Sinha’s academy, he had graduated to the senior squad in 2017.
Since then, he has featured in 12 first-class matches, continuously shuttled between Ranji Trophy and the U-23 level. More than his poor batting form, it’s the finicky nature of Delhi’s selectors that’s the reason for his travails. Bolstered by his 145 in his recent U-23 match against Madhya Pradesh at the St. Stephen’s Ground, Himmat was once again summoned to beef up the senior team’s fragile middle-order.
On Tuesday, Himmat and Bidhuri struck splendid half-centuries that rescued their team from a precarious position on Day 1 of their penultimate league encounter against Gujarat at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Delhi were in strife at 136/5, having lost opener Hiten Dalal for a well compiled 69 and the rest of their top order just after the lunch interval. This was when Himmat was joined by Bidhuri.
The duo’s 134-run fifth wicket alliance took Delhi to a respectable score of 270/6, when stumps were drawn on the opening day. Bhiduri was unbeaten on 78, while Himmat was dismissed for 56 on the final delivery of the day to Axar Patel. Their stellar acts of resurrection provided a throwback to their U-19 days, when they had forged a similar stand against Gujarat five seasons ago. “I was looking to get a single in that final over, but that was the first delivery (from Axar) that drifted away and instead of just nudging it, I managed to nick it to the first slip,” Himmat said at the end of the day’s play.
Despite the rare moment of indiscretion, he displayed tremendous fortitude in this knock that was punctuated with eight boundaries and a six. On the other hand, it was Bidhuri’s maiden half-century in his sixth match. During their stint, the Kotla track was bereft of the early morning moisture, making it conducive for stroke-play.
Bidhuri was the aggressor, and the manner in which he took on Gujarat’s spinners over the mid-wicket region was an absolute treat to watch.
“The pitch was hardly doing anything when we were batting. Their fast bowlers were not getting any movement off the surface and our plan was to bat out the day. But sadly, that did not happen,” Himmat explained, before adding that making the constant shifts from junior cricket to Ranji Trophy was an arduous task. “Obviously, it’s never easy when you’re making the shift from U-23 level to first-class cricket. But I cannot complain its part of the game.”
Himmat may not be complaining, but the lack of sustained run at Ranji Trophy had had an effect on his not-so-flattering stats. These are still early days in his career, but in 12 first-class games, he has managed to accrue 545 runs with six half-centuries to his name, a highest score of 99 and an average of just a shade less than 33.
In his limited game time so far, Himmat has mostly batted at No.6, a position that usually sees him batting with the tail. “The tempo of the game changes when you’re batting with the tail. Your chances of getting boundaries are negated as opposition captain stations fielders on the boundary. So singles becomes your only scoring option,” he opined. Himmat will be ruing the fact that he has missed out on a possible three-figure score in his comeback game.
Nevertheless, he will be buoyed by the manner in which he and his good friend have bailed Delhi out of trouble.
Brief Scores: Delhi 1st Innings 270/6 (Kunwar Bidhuri 78 batting, Hiten Dalal 69, Himmat Singh 56) vs Gujarat.
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