Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Sad Comment: Ranji Trophy 2008-09 Semifinals

Posted by Soulberry
Day One, Ranji Trophy 2008-09 Semifinals, Mumbai vs Surashtra and Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh

The Ranji Trophy is the premier domestic tournament of Indian cricket. All the short-cut avenues available these days notwithstanding, this tournament continues to remain as the main to sift, identify and hone cricketing talent in this country. Therefore it deserves a degree of committment from the association members hosting a match as well as from the BCCI itself, being the overseer of the game in India. At the very least at least the final three matches at the pinnacle should definitely merit more better preparations than what we saw yesterday.

I didn't watch the match at Nagpur between Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh for there wasn't any telecast, but one watched almost the entire day's play at Chennai between Mumbai and Saurashtra. So I'll curtail my complaints to this match only and leave it for bigger news corporations to talk about Nagpur for they must have a reporter present at the ground.

Mumbai vs Saurashtra - First Semifinal


When you see 39 overs bowled in the first session of the first day of a match, you know immediately that something's terribly wrong. Either with the bowling attack on display or, more likely, a clear condemnation of the pitch provided.

Admittedly, Saurashtra's bowling resources were pretty thin - it is a wonder that they managed to edge out other teams predominantly with their batting - but even these scarce resources in the form of medium pace of Jobanputra and BN Jadeja were quickly neutered by the most sixth dayish pitch seen on the first day of any match.

There was red dust flying off each time the ball landed on it, rarely did the ball rise above the knee level, and pretty soon the spinners were on midway through the first session of the match itself! For god's sake, this is the Ranji semifinal! For god's sake this is supposed to be Chennai - once known as the fastest and sportiest pitch of the country.

Being a regular and favoured test centre, it has had more matches in recent years than other centers could dream of. So there is no dearth of money dearth of dearth of consultative expertise. in pitch preparation. It is not a stepchild like Ferozeshah Kotla to the BCCI!

But I think it is BCCI which is to blame for not penaliing those not adhering to certain minimum norms. Just when we were beginning to think that India was producing sporty, faster pitches as part of their policy to prepare cricketers tuned to international needs - we saw that right through the turn of this millenium upto 2007-08 - since 2007-08 we are finding that that checks and balance system has been given up. Nobody adheres to any standards of pitch preparation now, nobody takes action...there is almost a covert consent by BCCI to revert to unprepared deadbeat dustbowls. Does it have anything to do with their desire to fasttrack India's climb up the ICC rankings? Recall the SA tour of India?

Well, it was in this scenario that a rather popgunnish attack of Saurashtra kept giving net practice to Mumbai. You could see there was no attempt to take any wickets even if the bowlers hadn't any skill and everyone was waiting already for Mumbai to eventually declare - perahps on the third day after some 700-800 runs have been scored. There were some spirited attempts....a wicket was taken, a few dropped short and there was one really good shout for caught behind when Jaffer was on 58...that rounded off the bowling excitement as spinner after left arm spinner wheeled away with no conviction or purpose.

The Mumbai batting mirrored the bowling and we saw the Ranji collossus - Wasim Jaffer - exhibit yet again how totally dominant and demoralizing he can be. He is impenetrably attritional at Ranji level and never seduced by the most batsman-friendly of circumstances either. He reads his own game...I began twitching and switched often to the RSA v Australia test match going on.

And then you look at the scoreboard at the end of the day and realize that when it says 268/1 it is actually saying tha 1) while Mumbai have probably batted Saurashtra out of this game (and Mumbai have better bowlers too now) 2) Saurashtra did the best they could under the circumstances and did brilliantly to hold Mumbai to under 3 runs per over. Such was the lethargic, uninspiring batsmanship which began as an eager Sunday. No doubt it was safe and secure, but it was more an effort which banked upon their own bowlers troubling the Saurashtra batting than the batsmanship applying any rattling pressure on the opposition. one asks for T20 or 50-50 scoring rates...but this was a no-threats pitch and a no-threats bowling attack. You must get tired of playing like a superwall to knee high hittable balls. Maybe only Sachin has license to play that way and still be considered a great in Mumbai circles. Most will have to be that dour, well-dressed, grinding out kind of batsman to merit any consideration as a propah batsman in Mumbai circles. They call it "professionalism", or something like that.

I have some time today - work later in the day today - I'm not sure I would like to see more of yesterday repeated. So till Pujara appears and sloshes Zak all over Chennai in yet another spirited fightback, I'll probably give viewing this Ranji encounter a miss. The Mumbai batting is too strong for the very mediocre bowling of Saurashtra on a even more mediocre pitch. the competitiveness will be when Saurashtra bats and Mumbai bowls. The pitch might crumble by then and true batsmanship may come to the fore. Till then, my suggestion is that each should go about their work.

Let us examine some news reports:

The PTI wire as it is adapted onto, goes something like this in patches -

On a batting paradise, Jaffer didn't hesitate to bat first and the Mumbai skipper, along with Samant and Rahane, milked the Saurashtra attack dry.

Among the hapless Saurashtra bowlers, Ravindra Jadeja did try his best but his brand of left-arm spin could not pose much threat to the set Mumbai batsmen.

Cricinfo spins it thus -

On a batting paradise, Wasim Jaffer hit his fourth ton of the season to charge Mumbai to a healthy position


The ball came on nicely to the bat on a pitch that is expected to turn from the third day and Jaffer made full use of the good batting conditions. It was a typical Jaffer knock, full of wristy flicks and back-foot punches. There were sashays down the track against the left-arm spinners and sweeps against the offspinner.

Somebody please kick the BCCI fat backsides for allowing such paradises.

Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh: Second Semifinal at Nagpur


I'm sorry but we only have hearsay to bank upon. there wasn't any telecast for this match.

Uttra Pradesh on paper is a stronger bowling side than Saurashtra even if RP Singh was not playing, but Tamil Nadu has been in some form this season.

It appears from reports that UP bowling was untesting, the pitch situation quite similar to the Chennai one, and unsurprisingly, the two form batsmen of the season, Mukund and Vijat took a toll of the UP attack.

Praveen Kumar appears to have lost his mojo since he was involved in some Meerut altercation. Maybe he needs to really earn his way back like Sreesanth and the VRV and co.

Piyush Chawla's performance confirmed my views of him. I'll be wary of saying more since I didn't see him bowl in this match, but he doesn't appear to understand the fundamental flaw in is bowling system which prevents him from being more effective. And his attitude appears to be such ( from what one sees from a distance of course )that he is not given to introspection and analysis of his game strengths and weaknesses. I've spoken long about him at TCWJ and elsewhere and the figures and bulletin I have in front of me suggest more of the same...

Siddharth Monga writes for Cricinfo as follows -

UP's bowlers lacked inspiration and the persistence to toil. They will need to find both for what looks like a long haul.


But Piyush Chawla was too inconsistent, and Praveen Gupta too innocuous.

Well if bowling reources are thin, then it makes you wonder what transpired in earlier rounds? i asked myself the same question - how did Saurashtra dismiss any team twice to win? And if they did, how poorly the other team must have played!

But not having seen even packaged highlights of earlier rounds, best reserve comments.

For me, it's reached the stage where my only point of interest being a possible fightback by the weaker teams among the four. If BCCI prepares the same kind of pitches for next season as well, you can rest assured that the recent improvement in skills of Indian batsmen against faster and rising balls will be lost. There will be no test of any aspect of batting and batsmen (only concentration levels like breath-holding records underwater) and domestic bowlers, who need a fairer equation, will wilt or be ground to dust.


N.Balajhi said...

I am surprised by scorelines SB. Just 3 wickets in around 180 overs. At least TN scored at a better rate. In the preview, in Hindu, it was mentioned that the pitch at Chepauk will sport a tinge of green. Whatever happenned to that tinge of green?

Introduction of neutral grounds for knockout phase hasn't made any difference. Not that it should be scrapped but the technical committee that suggested neural grounds must followup to see what effect it has on matches this season. Hope they improve pitches.

Pitches like these put teams losing the toss at a great disadvantage. After toiling days on the field they will have to come back and mount an himalayan chase. Feel sorry for UP and Saurashtra.

Soulberry said...

It was red, and red dust Bala. There was a tinge of grass but more towards the margins of the pitch. I recall red puffs of dust in the first session itself.

Follow up and analysis of feedback is probably not a strong point of BCCI. There isn't any scientific approach in the things they do except in political science.

And neutral grounds probably just don't care.

Now tell me what is the worth of Jaffer's double or triple hundred? On the strength of this he could have played 20 tests for India if it hadn't been for Gambhir and Sehwag and probably would have score a hundred in all of them.

But that's not to pull down's not his fault and he did what he could. In fact if he had failed the barbs would have been worse.

That said, suppose Pujara scores 150-160 runs...and Saurashtra loses on first innings lead...what kind of worth would you attach to this innings?

The pitch prvents a fair asessment...that too when big guns are playing. What a chance this was to pit the domestic players against the biggies on a sporting surface.

Why not telcast the net practice sessions next and call it a Ranji semifinal? I'm furious that India takes three steps forward and two backward.

N.Balajhi said...

Thank God, Gambhir is there now. Jaffer hits triple ton. His God father raised questions in BCCI working committee meeting. But then it's the turn of Srikkanth now. So he decides who gets the contracts and who goes as the third opener for India. The word 'Parochial' fits no one better than BCCI functionaries, be it ex-cricketers or pure administrators.

Saurashtra has hell of a task. Now I see this as a one innings match. They should back themselves to bat Mumbai out of this game. They may not get to bat immediately in the morning tomorrow. This is Pujara's ultimate test. Others should rally around him. A quadruple from Pujara would be just fine.

UP hit back today and restricted TN. This is another one innings match. UP seem to have had a shaky start. They have very good batsmen. TN must bowl well to make it to finals. Balaji has to come good tomorrow.

Soulberry said...

Bala, you stole the words out of my mouth. I was going to post that what if Pujara get a quadrupule and Ravi Jadeja gets a double and they end up overhauling Mumbai's 800 by just one run?

I'm disappointed with many things....Mumbai with Zak and Agarkar (an India opening attack at one time) with Pawar...didn't have the courage to declare even after 600.

They surely lack confidence in themselves and Wasim Jaffer is simply a local captain.

I agree about the parochialism...sadly, ex-international players are also such. At least they should have the larger picture in mind. The other day somewhere someone said Pujara should play more A tours and such and prove himself here is a man called wasim Jaffer whom we have seen in almost 50 tests only able to play in certain limited conditions getting support and not a man almost a decade younger than he and a big performer from a poorer side. At least Pujara has promise with him - to be kept or broken...Jaffer is a promise broken everytime he's been approached. But such is luck and is now clearly owned by one association.

Sachin was good to watch, Rohit doesn't inspire confidence in me...he isn't test match material yet as far as I am concerned.

However, it was good to see Wasim Jaffer able to be patient and concentrate so hard.

Agarkar got a raw decision towards the close....

Let's hope Saurashtra keeps it competitive.

Tamil Nadu lost wickets rather dramatically. Did Chawla pick up the final wicket? he was poor in bowling I am told...another wasted talent? I hope he gets it all right and is ready in another four-five years to take over from Mishra.

Raina will be the man to watch and Balaji of course will be of interest.

N.Balajhi said...

SB, Chawla went only backwards ever since Mishra performed in Mohali. Once Mishra settles in then there is no way Chawla make it as both are leggies and we don't play two leggies alongside. May be things are playing in his mind. He is not a poor bowler but then he is not as good as Mishra.

I checked Mumbai score in the evening and was surprised by Sachin's score. He just seem to have walked in and enjoyed himself. Ok, his team was in fabulous position but then he may not have curtailed himself much even if his team was in some trouble when he walked in. Take Dravid, he is just the opposite. I am wondering whether Dravid's seriousness is proving to be his undoing. He has nothing to prove yet he goes out to play each innings as if he has something to prove. It's all in the mind.

No one is an exception to regional bias, SB. Be it Vengsarkar or Srikkanth, they all want men from their state teams. There is no way Srikkanth can explain Badrinath's elevation to Grade B. Even Srinath was fuming when DK opened for India, in England, ahead of Uthappa.

UP/TN match is in the balance. Saurashtra has one hell of a mountain to climb. Mumbai just wants to be in the finals. They don't care whether they do it by first innings lead or out right win. Disgusting but then can't blame them. Our points system is like that and also it is difficult to push for a result on a flat track in 4 days time. Saurashtra must keep wickets in hand just in case run quotient comes into picture.

RGB said...

Its not "professionalism", but 'khadoos' as it is called.

Disappointed with the pitches for both the semi finals.

Dont agree with the neutral veneus either. No reason why the table topper should not have the advantage of playing at home.

Also Mumbai should have scored at a faster rate and declared near the end of Day 2.

As for Saurashtra, its a dose of their own medicine.

N.Balajhi said...

It's going to be Mumbai vs UP in the finals. Hope we get a good sporting wicket.

UP turned around twice in this match. First with the ball and then with the bat. TN deserves the result after giving reprieve to both centurions. If they can't hold onto catches they can't expect to win. It is better the team that fought in this match meets Mumbai in the fianls.

Finally, Balaji. He toiled hard and seem to have bowled well. 50 + overs for 110+ runs and 5 wickets is a gigantic effort by a seamer. He bowled more than 25% of the bowling for TN. Hats off to him. Looking forward to his Duleep trophy exploits. If he sustains his performance there also then deserves a call as the fourth seamer.

N.Balajhi said...

Balaji provided quick breakthrough at the top. Created a edge for shukla who was dropped by DK. He then returned back on final day to set UP back by two good wickets. And created one more opportunity by taking the 8th wicket with 25 more required for UP. In the end it was Shukla's 569 balls magnificent effort that won. He was able supported by Parvinder Singh and the tail (excluding Praveen kumar and Chawla).

Kaif must tidy up his game and come out with a big one against Mumbai.


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner