Ranji Trophy: Whatmore and his Eden hunt

Kerala coach Dav Whatmore, who guided the side to the knockout stage last season, was all praise for Jalaj Saxena after the victory over Bengal inside three days.

Kerala coach Dav Whatmore is delighted that his side could beat Bengal in its own backyard inside three days.   -  FILE PHOTO/M. VEDHAN

 

The Eden Gardens has given Dav Whatmore some fond memories over the last four decades.

He played one of his seven Tests for Australia here, coached Sri Lanka to the semifinal victory over India in the 1996 World Cup and Pakistan to a memorable win over the host in 2003; he was also in charge of Kolkata Knight Riders for two seasons.

He could now add to that list Kerala’s stunning nine-wicket victory against Bengal inside three days in the Ranji Trophy on Thursday. “This victory is special because of the context of where Kerala is placed in Indian cricket,” Whatmore told Sportstar. “I have always loved the air, the ambience and the tradition of Eden Gardens.”

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His most cherished memory about the ground is of course the World Cup match against India. “I remember it was exceptionally hot that day,” the Sri-Lankan born Australian said. “I will not forget the spinning ball, nor the fire in the stands. Roshan Mahanama’s 66 is also unforgettable; he was so dehydrated that he had to be on a drip.”

Fast-forwarding two decades, he said he was delighted with the way Kerala played at the Eden Gardens. “This team is well settled now; we are keeping the guys together,” he said. “We have had three games and have retained the same 15, but added one fast bowler because of the conditions here.”

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He said he was happy with the way Kerala’s cricketers adapted to the conditions. “After bowling out Bengal, the innings of Jalaj Saxena and his partnership with V.A. Jagadeesh proved crucial,” he said. “Jalaj has a strong mental approach. After batting for an hour, he saw there was a possibility for three figures and he went for that. It was one of the best innings you would see in conditions like these.”

About Sandeep Warrier’s return to form, he said he was happy to see the bowler at his best once again. “I just think he is more comfortable with himself now,” he said.

Kerala is now on top of Ranji Trophy’s Elite Group B. “Yes, it feels nice to know that,” said the coach who pushed Kerala hard to get to the knockout stage in the last season.