By Sidhanta Patnaik
Chennai: Jan 23, 2012
Still seven more overs were left to be bowled in Tamil Nadu’s second innings, when the moment for which the Ranji Trophy is being played for three months across cricket grounds in India arrived at M.A. Chidambaram stadium.
For a second, Rajasthan wicket keeper Dishant Yagnik’s scream gave an impression as if the result of the match had been hanging in balance till 3.15pm on Day 5. The uprooting of stumps, the jumping and hugging of players and all of that looked emotion-less and staged. The actual celebration would have happened last evening inside the dressing room after Tamil Nadu had been bowled out for 295 in their first innings. The sudden spur of antics against the afternoon sun did not merge naturally with the sedateness of the day’s environment.
The only remaining interest of this match at the beginning of the final day was Robin Bist. When he was in his 60s, he became the first Rajasthan and 12th overall batsman to register 1000 runs in one Ranji season. He took out his helmet, raised both his hands with a sense of relief and elation towards the dressing room. Play resumed after that and focus shifted towards his century.
But with every forward defensive stroke of his the interest level of the fielders dried down. Picking up the ball and giving it back to the bowler for the next delivery became a challenge. Somehow forcibly the next ball was delivered and then again the cycle of hesitancy repeated. Every step that the Tamil Nadu fielders took was an age in itself and by chance if a boundary was hit the proceedings slowed down even further. Fetching the ball from near the ropes was synonymous of climbing the Everest. It was a lonely journey from the peer circle to the outfield where the grass begged for some more attention.
At one point a dog was roaming in the outfield and Dinesh Karthik, who had abandoned wicket keeping responsibilities after lunch, and Abhinav Mukund stood at an arm’s distance chit chatting sweet nothings with each other without any attentiveness towards their core responsibility. Murali Vijay, who was among the day’s wicket takers kept on firing some air shots with his hand and then left the field when he got bored of it. Other fielders who are not so senior in the ranks either had their hands inside the pocket or on their waist desperately praying for the ball to not come towards them. It was like the last day of school annual examinations where more than the papers it is the plan post that which gets more attention.
Sensing this indiscipline and disinterest in the field, Bist tried to hurry his way to his fifth century of the season. For nearly three overs he looked fidgety and attempted suicidal singles. The tardiness finally got on to the highest run scorer of the season as he tried to force a shot above midwicket but the ball skied up over the umpire’s head at the bowling side. Mukund strolled up till there to complete the formalities. It was an anticlimax end to Bist’s Ranji season as he fell short of the three figure mark by 8 runs.
The ever appreciable Chennai crowd however had lost track of the match by then. Some had dozed off, some were engaged with their mobile phones and others were deeply engrossed inside their popcorn basket. Therefore Bist who deserved a standing ovation did not get one. Those who got up felt out of place so they got back to their seats.
The purposeless dragging of 80 overs made for painful viewing. That four innings got played in this match but only two had any meaning to it has now become a seasonal joke. Then the presentation ceremony happened by when the fizz had died. To add to the misery was the absence of any Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) member from the guest list. It creates space in the mind for more alarming questions.
If forward integration is to be measured then the English umpire Peter Hartley who stood in two games including the final as a part of an exchange programme between BCCI and England Cricket Board (ECB) will take no outright results with him to his hometown in Yorkshire. If backward integration is to be measured then a Madhya Pradesh boy aged 17 years, who was among the crowd on the final day and now plays professional cricket in Chennai to fuel his dreams of owning an India cap, will have very little to feel inspired about.
Rajasthan deserve credit for having managed to hold on to their belief in such an oblivious surrounding for two consecutive years. Today is their day but unfortunately it was a day of sad advertisement of the state of affairs. That the parent body can allow the curtains of such a wonderful tournament come down in a terrible manner defies the sense of their existence. Though there have been numerous theories going around of how to make Ranji Trophy more productive yet it is anybody’s guess whether BCCI will wake up to smell the coffee or not.
Brief Scores: Rajasthan 621 all-out (Vineet Saxena 257, Aakash Chopra 94, Hrishikesh Kanitkar 67, Robin Bist 57; Aushik Srinivas 4 for 192, Jagannathan Kaushik 3 for 91) & 204 for 5 (Robin Bist 92, Rashmi Parida 43*; Ramaswamy Prasanna 3 for 31) drew with Tamil Nadu 295 all-out & 8 for 2 (Kuthethurshri Vasudevadas 7*; Gajendra Singh 2 for 5)
Man of the Match: Vineet Saxena
(Sidhanta Patnaik is a sport marketing professional, public speaker and writes for Cricketcountry. His twitter id is @sidhpat)