Good crowds, pitch restore Ranji charm

Good advertisement for game, says Mumbais Jaffer
Last Updated 15 January 2010, 19:03 IST

More than a few stray incidents of atrocious behaviour emanating mainly from the Mumbai camp slightly devalued what was a fascinating battle of wits, skills, nerve and character, but in time to come, Mumbai’s six-run win over Karnataka will largely be remembered for the right reasons.

Quite often, the Ranji Trophy has been a formality of sorts on the domestic calendar. Crammed international schedules have almost invariably kept the country’s top stars away from the most prestigious competition, especially at the business end with the battle for top honours heating up.

Last year, Mumbai were fortunate to have the services of Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan during their victory over Uttar Pradesh, but the game hardly rose to dizzying heights and there were hardly a handful to watch the action as the match was played at a neutral venue, Hyderabad.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had little option but to discard its neutral venue experiment after such tall figures as Tendulkar publicly backed the home-and-away concept. The wisdom of reverting to the time-tested formula was all too apparent during this year’s final, when over four days, more than 25,000 people thronged the Glades to watch their favourite sons in action.
Divided between playing at an established ground, the Chinnaswamy stadium, and an arena where Karnataka’s pacers would get the best possible opportunity to exploit their strength, the Karnataka State Cricket Association eventually chose to take the final away from Bangalore.

On cricketing and attendance grounds, it turned out to be a masterstroke; credit must also be given the association and the players themselves for daring to confront Mumbai on a pacer-friendly surface, fully aware that the defending champions possessed a quality attack in the shape of Ajit Agarkar, Dhawal Kulkarni and Aavishkar Salvi.
The final was wonderfully received by the people of Mysore, so much so that on Thursday’s fourth day which ended in a six-run loss for the home team, the gates had to be closed because the stands were overcrowded beyond capacity. The atmosphere was electric, and the players enjoyed parading their wares in front of a vast, appreciative audience that clearly outnumbered any crowd seen at the Chinnaswamy stadium for a domestic game in the last several years.

The pitch, with a fair coating of grass and always keeping the bowlers interested, ruled out a boring batathon as the application and skills of the batsmen were probed. For far too long, batsmen in domestic cricket have gotten away to huge scores on the back of shirtfronts that have left the best bowlers in the business with broken spirits.
Guts and gumption were the order of the day in a game that witnessed just three half-centuries, unless you were Manish Pandey, a wonderful batsman with little disregard for conditions and reputations and who was by far and away the only dominant figure wielding a willow over the three and a half days.

“It was a good wicket compared to the wickets on which we have played earlier in the season,” Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer acknowledged. “I won’t say it was a bad track or a very good track. It was a decent track, no doubt about it.”
‘Good wicket’

The experienced former India opener also endorsed the wide-ranging opinion that this final in cricket had done a lot to raise the stature of the Ranji Trophy. “I don’t know if this much of a crowd would have come if we had played in Bangalore,” he added. “Playing in a small centre, obviously on a good wicket, it was great.

“This crowd got to see a lot of international players or players who are going to play for India. It was a good advertisement for the game, and especially the Ranji Trophy.”
Hopefully, the gains of this year will not be frittered away in a hurry, because domestic cricket, the production line that the national team so desperately depends on, needs every help that it can get.
DH News Service

(Published 15 January 2010, 16:45 IST)

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