It was Sunday afternoon and I was looking forward to some exciting cricket in the final of the Challenger Trophy between India Red and India Blue. Reds won the toss and chose to field. Evening dew should have been the reason behind that decision as it’s winter time in Nagpur. Sudeep Tyagi bowled the first over of the match and after three balls, the over status read W 0 W !!
Naman Ojha left the first ball only to find his stumps disturbed. Suresh Kumar tried to play across, missed and it was curtains for him as well.Then came some nonsense.Yusuf Pathan, Abishek Nayar, Jalaj Saxena and Dhoni himself were the batsmen lined up when the captain of the ICC international test and one day teams, MS Dhoni, sent in Harbhajan Singh at number four.Yes, Harbhajan Singh walking in to bat in the fourth ball of the match.
He did face a lot of music from both Tyagi and Ishant before injuring his knee off a quick inswinger from Lambu.Is that what you want for your frontline spinner on the eve of a packed season? Did Dhoni expect Bhajji to play Ishant , Tyagi and Munaf safely? Why Bhajji when the score is none for the loss of two wickets of the first three balls of the match? Now the news for you is that Bhajji has a strapping on his knee.
Fine.Bhajji goes and in comes ‘captain cool’.The World’s No.1 ranked ODI cricketer.He tries to ‘counter attack’ (as Arun Lal finds it) and get on with the scoring. There’s a bowling change and he sees Ashwin as a vent for some easy runs during the powerplay. Absolutely no responsibility shown here. Comes down the wicket and plays an aerial shot on the off side and gets caught at mid off. Scorecard now reads 49 for 4. Why didn’t he show all that ‘maturity’ today?
In the presentation ceremony, Dhoni says he hasn’t been getting chances to play his big shots for Team India and hence wanted to cut loose this time around. The whole purpose of the Challenger trophy was defeated by MSD with his experimenting of his own batting and the promotion he awarded to Harbhajan.
I had very high hopes on Abishek Nayar but he just had no clue of what Ashwin was delivering. Ashwin kept things simple. His line and length were spot on and the pitch offered good turn and someone like Rohit Sharma would have used his feet well, rotated strike and settled things down. Ashwin was made to look extraordinary. Nayar’s feet are very wide apart in his stance and I’m not sure how comfortable that can be while facing flight and turn. Ashwin though
produced a couple of carrom balls and it was very pleasing to see them being executed well. He has surely been practising hard and trying to add variety to his bowling. Best wishes to this ex-schoolmate of mine.
Munaf Patel bowled brilliantly. He has a very fluent and straightforward action and is far from being injury-prone. His fielding has improved leaps and bounces and he very much stays in the one day team I had picked last month.
Coming to Sreesanth, he is the only person who says he’s matured now. He is bowling well but he still spends a lot of energy on unwanted aggression. I’ve seen him dancing in the middle of test spells and I don’t think he’s changed much. Test bowlers certainly need a lot of focus and Sreesanth has a long way to go in bringing all his enthusiasm together and pick wickets with his brain.
Back to the match, the blues folded up for 84, the lowest ever Challenger total and the Reds, needless to say, finished things off comfortably, wth the winning runs fittingly scored of none other than M.S.Dhoni. This is the first time the Reds have won the Challenger Series.It was good to watch bowlers dominate a one day match in India. The pitch at the newly built VCA stadium in Nagpur looks very sporting. It has good carry, true bounce , offered quite a bit of movement to the pacers and considerable turn as well! Should really be a great test pitch.
The three squads picked for this edition did’nt look like the best possible ones available.The board has to ensure that the purpose of this tournament if fulfilled.