Ranji Trophy: Pujara reprieve likely to reopen DRS debate

Karnataka bowler Mithun had seemingly ended Cheteshwar Pujara's innings in 24 minutes with a short ball, but umpire Saiyed Khalid remained unmoved.

Cheteshwar Pujara was given a reprieve on 1, having gloved a short delivery from Abhimanyu Mithun, who had, along with his Karnataka team-mates, began celebrating.   -  AFP

How many of you knew or remembered Cheteshwar Pujara’s birthday last year? The India No. 3 – soft-spoken and rarely visible in endorsements or social media – stopped time when he took guard in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Karnataka at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Friday.

The 523 runs off 1258 balls in Australia made the Saurashtra batting mainstay star enough for people to Google his 31st birthday and drop in at the venue. 

Pujara accepted a gift too.

Karnataka bowler Abhimanyu Mithun surprised Pujara with a short and moving delivery in the 23rd over. The ball deflected off his glove to wicketkeeper Sharath Srinivas. The limited 100 people from the stands stood silent. The journalists present at the press box wanted to cross-check with the commentators – who were a floor above – if they had heard a sound.

As it happened

Out hai, out hai,” the broadcaster confirmed, shaking his head in disappointment. But umpire Saiyed Khalid was unmoved. 

Pujara had escaped. He was batting on 1 off 18 balls.

Expecting a split-second late decision, Karnataka hadn’t stopped celebrating. Mithun’s ‘come on’ had almost reached Cubbon Park metro station. 

Khalid didn’t raise his finger, thus reopening the DRS debate in domestic cricket. Poor umpiring has always been a major talking point in the domestic circuit.

After the last domestic season, majority of the captains and coaches had batted for DRS but the system is still not in place.  

Pujara’s first 17 balls

Pujara had an early lunch. He was seated on a chair beyond the boundary rope for close to 10 minutes before the start of the second session. 

As the moment came near, he bent for some quick push-ups and stretching drills.

Once he started the walk, the Karnataka slip cordon – comprising Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal and Krishnamurthy Siddharth – looked pumped. Speedster Ronit More was being encouraged to take the all-important wicket.

Karun Nair ran down to Pujara to greet him before the first ball. More threw down bullets to welcome the man of the hour.

1. The first ball, full length on the off-stump line, beat him on the outside edge.

2. The second one, in a similar line, caught a slight edge and went towards gully.

3. Pujara defended the third ball that looked like moving away.

4. He closed the face of the bat in the fourth.

5. The fifth ball was a back of a length delivery which he placed towards the off-side.

6. He pushed the final delivery back to the bowler to grant him a maiden.

7. Pujara rises with the bounce to keep it down.

8. A good length delivery that draws Pujara forward, but there is still no run. 

9. More cuts down on length and pitches it on the off, Pujara lets it go.

10. A fuller delivery defended.

11. Left.

12. A length ball on the pads. Pujara flicks it down leg for his first run. Mithun, a contemporary of Pujara from their maiden international appearance year [2010] finally led to the moment of the day.

13. An average ball back of a length outside off that Pujara kept down.

14. A full length delivery outside off left gracefully.

15. A good length delivery outside off that draws Pujara forward to defend with the bat and pad.

16. Similar delivery, left.

17. Mithun repeats the same ball, left again.

18. He cut his length and got the ball to move away with a bit of bounce. It kissed Pujara’s glove and went to the ‘keeper.

Pujara lasted 81 balls more to score 44 [45 off 99] to keep the momentum with Saurashtra.

Karnataka kept the 18th to 28th over period tight conceding only 17 runs but the umpiring glitch allowed Pujara to settle down.

Mithun finally got his man in the 55th over. The dismissal proved that Pujara was not in his elements today. He looked for a pull and got a top-edge. Not the kind of dismissals you associate the new wall of India with.

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