At the Brijesh Patel Cricket Academy (BPCA), Shreyas Gopal was groomed as a specialist middle-order batsman. He showed early promise and was drafted into the Karnataka Under-13 side for his batting prowess. Over the course of time Gopal, however, turned his attention to leg-spin and became a specialist in that department.
He now bats at No.9 for his state team. The second day’s play here showed why he’s still accomplished enough as a batsman to make an impact.
In his ninth Ranji Trophy match Gopal completed his maiden hundred. An innings that revived Karnataka. For they were reeling at 178 for seven when Gopal joined his skipper Vinay Kumar.
The 59-run partnership overnight had kept the visitors in the game. But Vinay got out on the fourth ball of the day and the onus shifted to the youngster to guide the tail and bat his team to safety. He did the job remarkably well, scoring 145 and helping Karnataka reach 408 in their first innings.
Gopal showed maturity beyond his age and experience. To start with, he stayed on the front foot and played straight. He opened up after wearing down the Bengal bowlers. The best part of the knock was that he always kept the scoreboard ticking.
A chanceless ton came in 150 balls — a dab down to third man — and Gopal jumped with joy and punched the air. It was a spontaneous overflow of emotion before he calmed down and took fresh guard again. He went on, demoralising the hosts further. Finally, an Ashok Dinda bouncer got the better of him with ‘keeper Sreevats Goswami acrobatically holding on to the edge. It was Dinda’s seventh wicket and Goswami’s sixth catch of the innings. But Gopal’s effort made them peripheral.
“It was my first hundred in the Ranji Trophy. So it has to be special. The pitch was not easy to bat on and we were under a bit of pressure. Now we are in a good position,” Gopal said after the day’s play.
He batted for 269 minutes, faced 197 balls and hit 19 fours and a six.
Spare a thought for Sreenath Aravind as well, the No. 11 who forged a 148-run stand with Gopal.
Ajay Sharma and Maninder Singh still hold the record for highest last wicket partnership in the Ranji Trophy — 233 runs for Delhi against Bombay in 1991-92.
Providing a shiel
The highlight of the association was the way Gopal protected Aravind initially and then allowed him to play freely as he started to middle the ball.
Aravind remained not out on 29 off 86 balls (162 minutes). It was a gloomy day to start with before the sun finally broke out in the afternoon.
Almost an hour was lost due to bad light. Staying focused was a challenge for the batters. The Bengal bowlers lost their rhythm instead.
Dinda bowled manfully from one end to return with seven for 87 from 32.1 overs. The medium pacer slugged it out unchanged for 11 overs in his first spell on the day, taking two wickets. But he lacked support at the other end. Veerpratap Singh was inconsistent and Shib Shankar Paul was pedestrian. Fielding, on occasions, was lousy.
The tinge of green not withstanding, Eden Gardens wicket is getting slower and lower. Bengal openers, Rohan Banerjee and Arindam Das survived some anxious moments – a couple of leg before calls looked very close – but dug in. Das (21), however, chased a wide delivery from Vinay after getting set and Manish Pandey took the catch (in second attempt) at second slip. The hosts finished the day at 62 for one, still 197 runs adrift of saving the follow-on.
“There’s a lot to learn from the way Karnataka tail-enders batted. Hope our batters will take a cue…” Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla said.
Brief Scores: Karnataka 408 all out in 108.1 overs (Shreyas Gopal 145; Ashok Dinda 7/87, VP Singh 3/98) vs Bengal 62/1 in 25 overs (Rohan Banerjee 27*; Vinay Kumar 1/22)