Old 'friends' renew rivalry

When Bhaskar Pillai walked on to the lush green outfield at the NPR College ground here on Thursday afternoon, D. Vasu greeted him with a warm smile. The two ‘near’ Indian cricketers seemed happy to meet each other.

D.Vasu (left) and Bhaskar Pillai at the NPR College Ground Natham in Dindigul on Thursday.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

When Bhaskar Pillai walked on to the lush green outfield at the NPR College ground here on Thursday afternoon, D. Vasu greeted him with a warm smile. The two ‘near’ Indian cricketers seemed happy to meet each other.

They are here as the coaches of the Duleep Trophy teams. A couple of decades ago, they had played against each other in domestic cricket, including the Duleep Trophy.

“I remember bowling against Bhaskar in a Duleep Trophy semifinal (at Bengaluru in 1992),” Vasu told Sportstar. “He had scored a hundred in the second innings. He was one of the finest batsmen I have come across. He was technically solid, very gritty and should have played for India.”

Bhaskar feels the same about Vasu. “He was an excellent all-rounder, who would have been very useful in an Indian ODI team,” said the former Delhi batsman, who scored more than 5,443 First Class runs at an average of nearly 52.84.

“I recall playing against him in the Duleep and Ranji Trophy. He had batted very well in a Ranji final against us for Tamil Nadu.”

In that match in Delhi in 1992, the left-handed all-rounder Vasu had made 63 after taking four first innings wickets. “One of my best performances came in the 1995-96 Duleep Trophy at Alwar, where I took four wickets in the second innings, with spin, after bowling pace in the first,” he recalled.

“I remember Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman both scoring hundreds in that game. But, I was dropped for the next match.”

The India Red coach, who scored 3001 runs and took 240 wickets in First Class, feels Duleep was more competitive when it was held as an inter-zone competition. But, Bhaskar, who is training India Green, thinks the new format has its own advantages too. “I think more players get chances in this system.”