Lesser-known players came into prominence in the just-concluded zonal one-day league for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Played in varied conditions, weather and pitches, the league produced some exciting contests, but the overall nature of the qualification race remained unaltered.
Delhi and Punjab made it from North Zone; Railways and Madhya Pradesh qualified from Central Zone; in East Zone, Assam sneaked in behind Bengal, ahead of fancied Orissa and Jharkhand; Mumbai and Maharashtra expectedly advanced from the West, while Karnataka and Hyderabad finished ahead of Tamil Nadu in the South.
Incidentally, three teams that aggregated the highest number of runs failed to make it to the knockout stage. Tamil Nadu (1,302), Vidarbha (892), Jharkhand (1,027) and Haryana (1,168) aggregated the highest in their respective zones, but could not grab the first and second slots.
Also, of the 23 batsmen who scored more than 200 runs, 16 hailed from teams that did not qualify.
Dinesh Karthik of Tamil Nadu was second in the list. Among the most consistent was Swapnil Asnodkar of Goa. He hit two centuries, as did Karthik, S. Anirudh, Ravi Teja, Robin Uthappa and Rohan Prem. Ronit More, a Belgaum lad, emerged the best among the bowlers. The medium-pacer, reasonably quick and rated high for his ability to learn, made a six-for debut against Goa. His tally of 15 wickets was the same as Jammu & Kashmir left-arm spinner Raman Dutta. The Jammu-based slow bowler made the most of the slow pitches at the Palam ground.
The Palam ground was an eyesore and came in for criticism from all team managements. The outfield, bumpy and rough, was not suited at all for a competition of such quality. The slow pitches too contributed to some drab fare in most matches. The performance of skipper Yashpal Singh, who aggregated 230 runs with one century, was the saving grace for Services.
Delhi medium-pacer Parvinder Awana bowled his heart out for Delhi, providing the breakthroughs in crucial encounters. He was the pick of the bowlers, even though he finished behind More and Dutta in terms of numbers. More (six for 18) was one of three who claimed six wickets in an innings, the other two being Railways seamer Shailendra Gehlot (six for 20) and Haryana leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (six for 24).
TN failing to advance was a surprise. It had a compact combination with Karthik and Anirudh scoring consistently, but lacked the support from the bowlers. Uthappa's form was vital in Karnataka excelling. Ankit Bawne of Maharashtra and Bengal's Wriddhiman Saha did not let their team down too.
The final standings:
Central Zone: 1. Railways (13); 2. Madhya Pradesh (8); 3. Uttar Pradesh (8); 4. Vidarbha (8); 5. Rajasthan (3).
East Zone: 1. Bengal (19); 2. Assam (12); 3. Orissa (8); 4. Jharkhand (3); 5. Tripura (-2).
North Zone: 1. Delhi (24); 2. Punjab (17); 3. Haryana (14); 4. Himachal Pradesh (5); 5. Services (1); 6. Jammu and Kashmir (-1).
South Zone: 1. Karnataka (18); 2. Hyderabad (16); 3. Tamil Nadu (14); 4. Goa (9); 5. Kerala (2); 6. Andhra (1).
West Zone: 1. Mumbai (12); 2. Maharashtra (11); 3. Baroda (9); 4. Gujarat (9); 5. Saurashtra (-1).
Keywords: Vijay Hazare Trophy