Not a ball was bowled on the last day

The two coaches, Bhupinder Singh and J. Arunkumar, stood in the drizzle, exchanging views and reflecting on the journey they undertook in the Ranji Trophy this season. Bhupinder has reached a dead-end while Arunkumar continues his pursuit of a Ranji title, a feat he achieved twice as a player for Karnataka in 1998 and 1999.

Not a ball was bowled on the final day with Karnataka, in response to Punjab’s first innings score of 270, scoring 447 for five. The Punjab coach assessed the season and Arunkumar looked ahead to the final against Maharashtra to be played in Hyderabad from January 29.

The scheduling of matches came in for sharp criticism from the Punjab management. “We are not being wise after the event, but it was always going to be tricky given the weather in the north at this time of the year. A match of this stature should never have been held here because the weather forecast was gloomy. But I won’t make any excuses. We had our chances but did not grab them. Karnataka played better cricket,” said the Punjab coach.

Arunkumar, while analysing his team, said: “The boys had backed themselves to win. You have to go into the match with a positive mindset. Last year, we had looked at tackling each session. This time the focus was just on winning. The boys believed winning was their birthright. The team had a bunch of confident players,” he said. Incidentally, Karnataka plays its second Ranji final in four years.

Turning point

The Orissa match, said Arunkumar, was the turning point. “It started the winning streak (six in a row). The bowlers found their rhythm and the batsmen were not worried about the nature of the pitches.

It was decided that three batsmen had to get big scores and the bowlers would share the responsibility even while batting. I emphasised on the lower-order playing its part.”

For Bhupinder, the turning point was the exceptional comeback against Delhi when Punjab recovered from a first-innings collapse of 74 to win outright.

“The team had the potential to win the title. It was a matter of getting the right composition and coming good collectively. I did not believe in putting any pressure on the players by setting targets.

“It is a young team and all I wanted them was to gain from the presence of Harbhajan (Singh) and Yuvraj (Singh). They bring immense experience to the dressing room,” Bhupinder said.

The scores: Punjab (1st innings) 270 in 64.5 overs drew with Karnataka (1st innings) 447 for five in 146.1 overs.

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