In the opening game of Delhi’s U-23 Col CK Nayudu campaign, against Maharashtra in October, Simarjeet Singh struck in his second over when he dismissed opener JS Pande. An over after the early breakthrough, Delhi, playing just two seamers, were dealt a severe blow when Simarjeet was called for a suspect action and wasn’t allowed to bowl. He was asked to undergo tests in Chennai and had to miss the next two group-stage games before rejoining the team.
The lanky seamer picked seven wickets in the next three matches as Delhi entered the final but the jury was still out on whether he was still the same bowler after his action was called into question. In the final, however, Simarjeet came into his own at the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground.
Simarjeet rattled the Mumbai middle-order to bundle them out for just 230 in the first innings. He picked 6/73 in the first essay and added two more in the second innings for a season best match-haul. Along with medium-pacer Gourav Kumar, who took 4 for 87, Simarjeet was instrumental in restricting Mumbai to modest totals in both the innings.
Delhi overhauled the 239-run target with five wickets to spare as wicketkeeper Anuj Rawat top-scored with 75. On a day Delhi won its maiden U-23 title, Simarjeet looked back at his start-stop season.
“I had to sit out for three matches because of my action. I really couldn’t do anything but I’m happy to contribute in final. Coaches and selectors kept telling me that there is nothing wrong with my action and I should continue. I went to Chennai for two days after the first game, cleared my action and rejoined the team,” Simarjeet says.
After a good season with Delhi U-19s last year, Simarjeet graduated to the U-23 level. He was also picked in the Ranji Trophy standbyes.
Delhi U-23 team won three matches by an innings and remained unbeaten. Not only the fast bowlers but the spinners too made an impact. Two Delhi spinners, leggie Tejas Baroka and left-arm spinner Shivank Vashisth ended as No.1 and No.2 bowlers with 33 and 30 wickets respectively.
Chairman of selector Atul Wassan says it is turning it out to be an year where everything is just clicking.
“The players are doing a great job and the U-23 team did really well. Picking U-23 squads is more difficult than Ranji. We selectors had to make some tough calls, make people unhappy but then we do what’s best for Delhi cricket,” Wassan says.
While the batsmen were doing their bit, captain Jonty Sidhu’s spot for quarter-final was under threat after poor outings in five innings. The management backed the skipper and retained him for the knockout fixtures and he delivered the goods with centuries in the quarterfinal and semifinal.
Rajkumar Sharma, appointed as coach this season, said that giving Sidhu a long rope was done because he is seen as one for the future. “He was India U-19 captain six months ago. He didn’t start off well at the U-23 level but we believed in him. For me, it was an investment in Delhi’s future and with those hundreds he repaid our faith,” Sharma, who is Virat Kohli’s coach, said.
Sharma recalls how nervous he was when he travelled to Italy to attend Kohli’s wedding because the team was playing the semifinal against Tamil Nadu during that time.
“I had to go for a special occasion but my heart was in Delhi. My boys were playing and I kept asking from the manager and followed the scores on the website. Even Virat (Kohli) was thrilled when I told him about the team winning the title. Yesterday it was Ranji final, today CK Nayudu title,” Sharma says about what is turning out to be a special season for Delhi .
Brief Scores: Mumbai 230 and 267 lost to Delhi 260/9 declared and 239/5 (Anuj Rawat 75, Dinesh Mor 46 not out, Sairaj Patil 2-57) by five wickets.