A learning experience

Published : Oct 04, 2003 00:00 IST

THE Irani Trophy game between a full strength Rest of India side and Mumbai gladdened my heart. I was reminded of those Irani matches in the 70s and 80s, where a lot of glamour and prestige was attached to this key encounter in the domestic calendar.


THE Irani Trophy game between a full strength Rest of India side and Mumbai gladdened my heart. I was reminded of those Irani matches in the 70s and 80s, where a lot of glamour and prestige was attached to this key encounter in the domestic calendar.

Domestic cricket is moving in the right direction and this can only augur well for Indian cricket. The fact that the match threw up a close finish was even more heartening.

There was a carnival atmosphere among the cricketing fraternity in Chennai during the tournament. Apart from the keenness and the seriousness with which the cricketers played the match, what struck me was the spirit shown by the members of both sides. Despite the tightness of the contest, there was hardly an ugly incident and we saw a lot of good, clean cricket. Those who represent the country have a responsibility and they should be setting the right example on the field to the cricketers.

There are a lot of young cricketers around with promise. If groomed properly, the chances are that they will do well for the country and themselves.

Matches such as the Irani Trophy thus play an important role in the development of cricketers, in this grooming process. Apart from testing their skills against the best they will emerge much tougher mentally.

This could be a path-breaking year in domestic cricket. The players slugging it out will be paid better and I am sure there is plenty of exciting cricket ahead of us.

It was heartening to see a good crowd turning up for the match. A sizeable gathering of spectators at the venue is vitally important to infuse life into the proceedings.

The players will be motivated to put in that extra effort when they see the crowd getting involved. And the stars bring in the crowd.

Given its strength, the Rest of India started as the favourite and it did manage to win. However, it was given a fright by Mumbai.

The spirit of Mumbai's cricket once against shone through. Mumbai had the world's best batsman in captain Sachin Tendulkar, but that apart Rest of India was vastly superior on paper. Yet, Mumbai gave the Rest a run for its money and held the upper hand on the first three days before Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman, with stupendous efforts, took the match away from Sachin Tendulkar's men.

Mumbai combines well as a team and it fights till the very end. In the past we have seen Mumbai, with several stars absent, actually going on to win the Ranji Trophy.

As we witnessed in the Irani Trophy, Mumbai kept trying even when Dravid and Laxman had taken the Rest to the doorstep of victory. When the breakthrough was achieved Mumbai managed to apply considerable pressure on the Rest.

The match would have been an educating experience for a youngster like L. Balaji. After all, watching and playing with men, who have been immensely successful for the Indian team from such close quarters, can only have a positive influence.

The paceman had his moments with the ball and displayed admirable temperament as the nightwatchman on the first session of the decisive fourth day. Balaji fielded well too and showed good commitment, which is what the seniors look for in a youngster.

Mumbai's Ramesh Powar would be a much better cricketer after bowling at some very fine batsmen. Though he came under punishment on the final day, I am sure the off-spinner would have picked up quite a lot from the experience. He did bowl well in the first innings and it was nice watching a young spinner flighting the ball and attempting to deceive batsmen rather than wait for things to happen. I hope Powar does not change his methods. He showed some ability with the bat also and is a cricketer worth looking at.

The missing link in the Irani Trophy was a specialist left-arm spinner. There were no bowlers of this breed in both the XIs.

It was sad that Murali Kartik, such a promising bowler, but someone who has hardly received the right kind of opportunities, had to sit out of the match.

In the chances that have come his way, Kartik has done well for India and if my memory serves me right, he was the pick among the bowlers in both sides, during the high-scoring ODI series against the West Indies late last year, played on placid tracks.

A talented spinner like him should not be made to feel demoralised and I hope Kartik gets the right kind of breaks in the future. India does need a left-arm spinner.

With debate about the openers still on, Wasim Jaffer could have stolen a march over the rest of the contenders had he produced a sizeable effort in the Irani Trophy. He appeared set for a good score in the first innings before being scalped by Balaji.

Sadagopan Ramesh is another opener whose performances will be followed with a lot of interest in the coming days. He has already done well at the international level and I would expect him to find back his India place sooner than later.

I thought the pitch for the Irani Trophy played its part in the match developing into a good contest. There was help for both the seamers and the spinners, though the surface was not a treacherous one. Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman proved that runs could be made with the right kind of approach. There is always a buzz at the beginning of the season. The domestic season has begun on a rousing note and the efficient Kiwis have landed. There will be plenty of action.

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