IT WAS a slow loopy delivery from Shreyas Gopal on off stump, which was bludgeoned to the mid-on region by India Blue’s No.11 Pankaj Singh. Pragyan Ojha bends on one knee to collect it, but the ball pitched on one of the barren patches, and bounced viciously to take him by surprise. The ball thudded onto Ojha’s left side of his head, behind the ear.
The left-arm spinner collapsed in a semi-conscious state. Moments later, still grimacing in pain, he was stretchered off and admitted to a nearby hospital here in Greater Noida. India Green coach WV Raman accompanied him to the hospital. Ojha’s injury had brought a sense of an uneasy calm to the proceedings. Play resumed, but everyone present had only one thing in their minds: “What’s the update on Ojha?”
Amrit Mathur, BCCI’s GM Coordination, allayed fears when he assured India Green’s spinner was doing just fine after the preliminary check-up. “I have just received information from Yatharth Hospital where Pragyan has undergone scans for his concussion. The reports are fine. He is however, being kept under 24-hour observation. I even spoke to Pragyan and he is doing just fine,” Mathur told reporters.
BCCI then posted on Twitter the photo of Ojha from the hospital bed, with the tweet “Pragyan Ojha is doing fine. His health will be monitored.” The Bengal spinner’s injury on the final day was just symptomatic of India Green’s travails in this all important knock-out game. Absolutely nothing has gone their way ever since their captain Suresh Raina lost the toss on Day 1.
On the leather hunt for two consecutive days, they were well and truly out-batted by Blue’s who scored a humongous 707 — propelled by glorious centuries from Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara and Sheldon Jackson. Their bowling looked insipid and listless. Jasprit Bumrah, who was back from the Caribbean, struggled with no-balls and cut a sorry figure on his pink ball debut.
On Day 3, they were hampered further by their captain Raina’s ankle injury. To further illustrate the gulf between the two teams, India Blue had batted 176.3 overs in their first innings, in response to which the Green folded up in just 61 overs. Barring Parthiv Patel and Shreyas Gopal’s 78-run stand for the fifth wicket, none of their batsmen had managed to stitch together any innings of substance. Clearly, Raina’s men had whittled under the huge mountain of runs. Unsurprisingly, the final day was pretty much a sordid affair for India Green. Blue’s top 3 — Gambhir, Mayank and Pujara batted with much the same kind of poise, which they had shown in their first essay.
While the openers posted half centuries, Pujara fell for a well composed 31. Dinesh Karthik and Sheldon Jackson brought up emphatic half centuries, but the Green’s bowlers showed a bit more purpose the second time around. Leg spinner Shreyas Gopal finished with four scalps in the second innings, to finish with nine in the match. Satisfied after progressing to the final, India Blue’s captain Gautam Gambhir lauded his team’s “professional display”, and singled out Man-of-the-Match Mayank Agarwal for his prolific run in the two games.
Big boys to play the final
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma along with spinners Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja will feature in the Duleep Trophy final, scheduled to take place at the Greater Noida Stadium from September 10-14, the senior selection committee announced at the end of the third Duleep Trophy game on Wednesday.
Dhawan and Mishra have been included in the Yuvraj Singh-led India Red squad, while India Blue’s middle order will get bolstered with the presence of Rohit and all-rounder Jadeja in their mix.
Brief Scores: India Blue 707 and (second innings) 298 (Sheldon Jackson 79 not out, Gautam Gambhir 59, Mayank Agarwal 57, Dinesh Karthik 57; Shreyas Gopal 4/53, Pragyan Ojha 3/90) drew India Green 237 and (second innings) 179/4 (Murali Vijay 73, Robin Uthappa 66).