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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ranji Trophy: Prodigal Anustup Majumdar saves the day for Bengal

Why Anustup Majumdar has failed to hit consistency is anybody’s guess. Playing the game looking over his shoulder probably didn’t help.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: January 28, 2020 9:19:45 am
Anustup Majumdar was the rock in Bengal’s dogged effort.

Anustup Majumdar is an enigma. He has played only 59 first-class matches since debuting in 2004. His batting average is modest, a shade under 36, and he has scored only seven centuries at this level. It’s a disappointing return for a batsman with a pretty good technique. Why Majumdar has failed to hit consistency is anybody’s guess. Playing the game looking over his shoulder probably didn’t help.

Majumdar usually thrives when his team is under pressure. Last time when he played against Delhi, the 35-year-old came up with a match-winning half-century. On Monday, against the same opposition at Eden Gardens, Bengal yet again relied on him after losing their first four wickets for 100 runs. The hosts were without regular captain Abhimanyu Easwaran, playing for India A in New Zealand at the moment. Stand-in skipper Manoj Tiwary became impatient, jumped out of his crease and was stumped at the stroke of lunch. Another wicket at that juncture could have triggered a collapse.

Bengal finished the day at 286/5 instead, with Majumdar undefeated on 94. Shreevats Goswami, too, played a lovely hand for his 59, adding 117 runs with Majumdar for the fifth wicket. But the latter was the glue. After Delhi elected to field, Bengal’s primary task was to see off the new ball on a greenish pitch, with the conditions providing movement in the air and off the deck. However, Abhishek Raman chased a wide one from Simarjeet Singh to be caught behind. Then left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra came to the party, removing Kazi Saifi and Tiwary.

Majumdar countered the spinner expertly. He used his feet, converted a few good deliveries into hittable offerings and scored boundaries. That was an important psychological battle won. Also, Delhi captain Dhruv Shorey missed a trick by not starting with Simarjeet post-lunch. The 22-year-old looked the most likely of the Delhi seamers to take wickets. He bowled in the channel and tried to make the batsmen play. Left-arm medium-pacer Kulwant Khejroliya, only into his second Ranji Trophy match this term, was a little undercooked and wayward. Subodh Bhati tried to keep things tight but lacked penetration.

The Eden pitch is not a seamers’ paradise. A fast bowler needs to have quality to extract life out of it. Delhi sorely missed Ishant Sharma, nursing an ankle injury. The tall pacer would have enjoyed bowling here. Without him, as the pitch eased out in the afternoon, Delhi’s bowling at times looked pedestrian. Coach KP Bhaskar admitted that his charges could have been better. Also, Khejroliya and company barely used the short ball. Both Majumdar and Goswami are predominantly front-foot players. The Delhi medium-pacers could have tried a few bouncers against the Bengal duo. The pitch was hard and even at 130kph, bouncers might have worked as shock deliveries. The visitors didn’t seem to have a Plan B. “The bowlers are tired. Khejroliya has just returned from an injury. And bowling bouncers takes a lot of effort,” KP Bhaskar said.

Brief scores: Bengal 286/5 (Anustup Majumdar 94 not out, Shreevats Goswami 59; Vikas Mishra 3/78) vs Delhi.

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