Out of the 49 Ranji Trophy Super League matches played from the first week of November, 30 meandered to a draw. This once again bears out the batsmen’s supremacy and the struggle the bowlers have undergone over a period of seven weeks in the BCCI’s premier national championship.
Even to the seamers who have been among the wickets it’s not been easy either. As usual they have had to bend their backs and demanded scalps. The spinners were virtually out of the big picture.
Clearly the contest between the bat and ball was absent in many instances with the batsmen amassing runs, a fact that’s evident in aggregates of 1000 plus in 20 matches and 900 plus in 13 matches.
It’s another stark aspect that has brought the clear divide between the BCCI’s Pitch and Grounds Committee. The home associations have vested interests whereupon they cannot go against the whims of their players. They cannot look beyond the prize and hence most matches suffered from a real contest on account of lifeless pitches.
There have been exceptions though, like the one at Dharamsala where the pitch allowed for a contest between Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. W. V. Raman who has been a player and coach together for three decades said: “It’s the best pitch I have seen in 30 years. The pitch had pace, carry, bounce and lateral movement on all four days.” In fact he advised the authorities to prepare sporting wickets for all junior and senior cricket saying: “By all means. I would probably say it’s a must for real development of players.”
The UPCA took maximum advantage of the presence of Praveen Kumar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Bhuvanesh Kumar and rolled out a track that afforded excessive seam movement.
The surface helped Ranadeb Bose, Sourav Sarkar and Laxmi Ratan Shukla, too, but Bengal lost the match narrowly and thereby failed to progress to the knock-out.
Uttar Pradesh advanced to the quarter-finals with five points from this crucial match. Things may have been different had Ashok Dinda (selected in the Indian team for Twenty20 against Sri Lanka) played this match. But the contest was gripping till the end. In another instance Baroda beat Saurashtra in one and half days on a seamer friendly track at the Moti Bagh Palace ground.
What these two instances have shown is that India’s curators know the dynamics of making a pitch for any match. Once the authorities do not interfere with their work, one may see few batsmen pile up runs on plumb wickets.
At the end of the Super League, Parthiv Patel on the back of his 166 against Tamil Nadu and 149 against Mumbai — both when conditions were favourable to the batsmen at the Sardar Patel Stadium and the Bandra-Kurla-Complex — leads with 727 runs. He is followed by Saurashatra’s own version of Virender Sehwag, but a left hander Chirag Pathak (601), S. Badrinath (584), Wasim Jaffer (569), Cheteshwar Pujara (554). Few more crossed the 500 run mark and notable among them is Karnataka’s Manish Pandey (553).
In the last round, Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten 309 against Gujarat’s four main bowlers who have played between them 27 first class matches. “It’s good only for the fact that he’s learning to play a long innings and graft for runs,” said a national selector.
The other big individual scores came from Badrinath (250 against Mumbai), Ajinkya Rahane (265 not out against Hyderabad), Abhinav Mukund (257 against Hyderabad), Cheteshwar Pujara (204 not out against Maharashtra) and Shikar Dhawan (224 against Baroda).
Though he did not figure in the Karnataka's last league match against Saurashtra, R. Vinay Kumar tops the bowling averages with 33 at 16.78 as against Punjab’s Love Ablish’s 33 at 22.36.
Himachal Pradesh’s V.S. Malik has taken 32, Karnataka’s Abhimanyu Mithun 31 and Punjab’s Manpreet Gony 30.
The first among spinners is Orissa left-arm spinner Dhiraj Singh who has taken 25. There are others like Uttar Pradesh’s Piyush Chawla, Mumbai’s Iqbal Abdullah and Tamil Nadu’s Aushik Srinivas who have taken around 20 wickets. The find of the league has to be Karnataka middle order batsman Manish Pandey and fast bowler Mithun and Tamil Nadu’s Srinivas.
The quarter-final line up has India’s main teams: Mumbai v Haryana, Tamil Nadu v Delhi, Karnataka v Punjab and Uttar Pradesh v Assam. And Assam’s joint top wicket-taker with seamer Abu Nechim Ahmed has been off-spinner Arlen Konwar. The 28-year-old Konwar was in the proven chucker list with a beyond 20 degree defect. He sent 213.3 overs in six matches, but was not called for throwing.