For once, Dhruv Shorey didn’t lean into the drive properly. Mukesh Kumar bowled a wide half-volley outside the off stump and Shorey went for an expansive cover drive. The ball moved late, took the outside edge and went to ‘keeper Shreevats Goswami. The batsman looked frustrated. At the dug-out, Delhi coach KP Bhaskar was disappointed.
Shorey was batting beautifully, showing signs of returning to form. His first five scoring shots had been boundaries. He had 11 fours in his 129-ball 65. The Delhi captain was driving gloriously. But with Nitish Rana departing only four overs previously, Shorey needed to eschew his attacking instincts for a while. He made a mistake. “It was a four all day. The ball swung late,” he said after the day’s play.
HALF-CENTURY: Skipper Dhruv Shorey brings up his fifty as Delhi near 130 against Bengal. 👏
— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) January 28, 2020
Bhaskar, though, admitted that his team preferred valour over discretion.
“Maybe, he needed to be a little more circumspect. A partnership was broken only a few overs ago.”
It was Shorey’s second Ranji Trophy half-century this season after his 96 against Punjab about a month back. He looked set for a three-figure score, batting untroubled. But not only the skipper, on Tuesday at Eden Gardens, the Delhi top-order fell prey to poor shot selection. It saw them surrender the initiative even after restricting Bengal to 318 in their first innings. With two wickets falling at the fag end of the day, the visitors suddenly slumped to 192/6 at stumps.
The pitch eased out a bit on the second day and Delhi should have capitalised on it. Kunal Chandela, after surviving a dropped chance early in his innings, got out for nine, when he tried to play an over-pitched delivery from 31-year-old debutant seamer Nilkantha Das through mid-wicket. He closed the face of the bat, allowing the inswinger to breach his defence.
Chandela’s opening partner, Hiten Dalal, was going steady at the other end. But after scoring 40, he made a similar mistake against another very full delivery from Das.
Rather than closing the face of the bat, the Delhi openers should have shown the maker’s name.
The 60-run third wicket partnership between Shorey and Rana put the hosts under pressure. Delhi had the opportunity to take the game away from Bengal. But once again, patience wore thin. Bhaskar’s reaction to the dismissals was anecdotal. “Many years ago, when I was playing, Sunil Gavaskar once gave me a great piece of advice – ‘fours and sixes are fine, because you have to score runs, but you must learn to enjoy your defence and leaving the ball’. Also, our batsmen should emulate (Mumbai’s) Sarfaraz Khan, who has hit a double century (against Himachal Pradesh) after scoring a triple hundred (against Uttar Pradesh) in the last match. For a team to be successful, your top three batsmen should score 600 runs each in a season.” After six matches, Delhi have only Rana with a decent return – 467 runs.
Not many players these days back their technique in testing conditions, trying to make it up with quick-scoring instead. And in a set-up like Delhi that lives with administrative chaos, it’s almost impossible for a coach to drill his philosophy into the players. “The squad assembles just about 20 days before the Ranji season. So it’s all about man-management. Without a DDCA academy, it’s becomes really difficult to connect all age groups with the senior team,” Bhaskar said. That Delhi still consistently churn out India players is down to the city’s club culture.
Coming back to the day’s play, Delhi were in trouble, when Kshitiz Sharma and night-watchman Simarjeet Singh perished to left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed in successive deliveries in the final over of the day. Sharma failed to handle the extra bounce and was caught at slip. His selection has raised controversy, but the Delhi team management felt that during his 38-ball stay he looked ‘OK’.
Earlier, resuming on overnight 286/5, the Bengal lower-order collapsed after Anustup Majumdar was run-out on 99. The batsman yet again missed out on a century. A direct hit from Dalal caught Majumdar short of his crease. The last four Bengal wickets fell for 25 runs. But they fought back. Their ploy of bowling in the corridor and testing the patience of the batsmen worked.
Brief scores: Bengal 318 (Anustup Majumdar 99; Simarjeet Singh 4/77) vs Delhi 192/6 (Dhruv Shorey 65; Shahbaz Ahmed 2/11, Nilkantha Das 2/36)
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