A pot of gold at the end of the Karnataka rainbow

Lokesh Rahul and Ganesh Satish cracked hundreds for Karnataka.-K. RAMESH BABU

The morning session of the second day virtually decided the Ranji Trophy final in Karnataka’s favour. V.V. Subrahmanyam reports.

Dream big, work hard. This was the guiding principle, according to Karnataka captain R. Vinay Kumar, which saw the State emerge champion for the seventh time in Ranji Trophy history when it scored an emphatic, seven-wicket win over Maharashtra in the final at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad.

Well, the prestigious national championship is the show-piece of domestic cricket in terms of not only unearthing talent from even relatively unknown States, but also in giving consistent performers and those on the comeback trail a ray of hope.

With the five-member national selection committee, headed by Sandeep Patil, watching the Ranji final on all five days in Hyderabad, it will be interesting as to how they will assess the performances of Maharashtra’s Kedar Jadhav (the season’s leading scorer with 1223 runs) and opener Harshad Khadiwale (1004 runs).

The fact that their performances were under scrutiny was perhaps a bigger motivator for the players than the winner’s purse of Rs. 2 crores and the runner-up prize money of Rs. 1 crore.

There was an element of surprise when Hyderabad was chosen as the venue for the Ranji final after not even one innings had been completed in two league games there. So when the BCCI Pitches and Grounds Committee Chairman Daljit Singh and P. R. Viswanathan, BCCI Curator (South), gave ‘inputs’ to the HCA Chief Curator Y. L. Chandrasekhar for the preparation of the pitch for the final, a sporting wicket was expected.

There was the natural assistance in the morning session to the pacemen because of the moisture, but the much expected ‘turn’ on the fourth and fifth days was missing. The pitch was slow and low right through the five days despite having quite a few cracks on the surface.

It was a difficult scenario for any bowling outfit. But the Karnataka pacemen — captain Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and left-armer Sreenath Aravind — showed great discipline to bundle out Maharashtra for 305 on the second day after the team had resumed at 272 for five. “That was the turning point of the final and full credit to the bowlers,” remarked Karnataka vice-captain and wicket-keeper Chidambaram Gautam.

And, in response, the formidable Karnataka batting line-up was at its best, thanks to centuries by Ganesh Satish (117) and Lokesh Rahul (131). The latter finished the season with 1033 runs to be the second highest scorer. Even India discard, the flamboyant opener Robin Uthappa, made a splendid 72 with some big hits.

Maharashtra paid a very heavy price for its shoddy catching. The principal beneficiaries were the Karnataka century-makers Satish and Rahul, both dropped twice each. On a pitch of this nature it was criminal to miss chances and not surprisingly this had a direct bearing on the outcome. Karnataka went on to take a 210-run lead and virtually pushed Maharashtra out of the match.

Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar being greeted by team-mates for his 300th wicket in first class cricket. Vinay with his aggressive body language, literally led from the front in the Ranji final.-K. RAMESH BABU

There was an improved display by Maharashtra in the second essay, thanks to Kedar Jadhav who notched up his sixth century of the season. Jadhav’s was an amazing success story even as there will be a serious debate on where and against what kind of opposition he piled up his imposing scores. But, the fact that he chose the Ranji final to showcase his batting skills with a century was a tribute to his efficacy. There were other consistent performers too for Maharashtra like Harshad Khadiwale, Ankit Bawne, Sangram Atitkar and the India under-19 captain Vijay Zol. However, Zol disappointed in the final with faulty footwork and judgement on the off-stump in the both the innings.

Two low full-tosses in quick succession from the crafty Vinay Kumar which dismissed the well-set Chirag Khurana and Kedar Jadhav on the fourth evening effectively dashed whatever hopes Maharashtra had of setting a much stiffer target for Karnataka. In the process, Vinay also took his haul to 300 wickets in first-class cricket and with his aggressive body language literally led from the front.

With leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal sharing the spoils on the final morning, all that Maharashtra could manage was to set a victory target of 157.

To the chagrin of the Maharashtra camp, the pitch continued to play easy and Karnataka had few problems in coasting to a comfortable, seven-wicket win. A four and a six off consecutive balls by Karun Nair off Chirag Khurana to seal the contest after tea on the final day were in a way symbolic of the way Karnataka dominated the contest. It was a pity that Maharashtra did not come up with a special performance to realise its dream of winning the trophy again (it last won in 1940-41, having earlier triumphed in 1939-40).

“It is a great feeling to win the Ranji Trophy. I thank all my teammates and support staff for their wonderful job. This is bigger than the individual achievement of me taking 300 first-class wickets,” remarked the victorious captain Vinay Kumar.

For his part, Maharashtra captain Rohit Motwani felt his team lost the game on the second morning, when the last five wickets fell for 33 runs, and then by dropping catches when Karnataka batted. “It is disappointing to lose the final, but we are all happy with the journey till this stage, that too coming from Group C. We will come back hard next season,” said the wicketkeeper-batsman.

THE SCORES

Maharashtra — 1st innings: Harshad Khadiwale lbw b Vinay 15, Chirag Khurana lbw b Karun 64, Vijay Zol c Gautam b Aravind 5, Kedar Jadhav c Gautam b Mithun 37, Ankit Bawne b Mithun 89, Rohit Motwani c Gautam b Mithun 17, Sangram Atitkar c Gautam b Aravind 50, Srikant Mundhe c Pandey b Aravind 7, Akshay Darekar c Aravind b Vinay 2, Anupam Sanklecha lbw b Vinay 1, Samad Fallah (not out) 2. Extras: (b-5, lb-6, nb-5) 16. Total: 305.

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-42, 3-90, 4-144, 5-215, 6-272, 7-294, 8-301, 9-302.

Karnataka bowling: Vinay Kumar 30.1-6-81-3, Abhimanyu Mithun 23-8-49-3, Sreenath Aravind 26-6-65-3, Manish Pandey 1-0-2-0, Shreyas Gopal 13-0-54-0, Karun Nair 5-1-21-1, Amit Verma 4-0-14-0, Ganesh Satish 2-0-8-0.

Karnataka — 1st innings: Robin Uthappa c (sub) Tripathi b Mundhe 72, Lokesh Rahul c Motwani b Mundhe 131, Ganesh Satish b Khurana 117, Manish Pandey lbw b Fallah 36, Karun Nair c Motwani b Khurana 44, Chidambaram Gautam c & b Fallah 7, Amit Verma lbw b Fallah 29, Shreyas Gopal c Motwani b Sanklecha 10, R. Vinay Kumar (run out) 28, Abhimanyu Mithun c Motwani b Mundhe 16, Sreenath Aravind (not out) 0. Extras: (b-9, lb-4, nb-9, w-3) 25. Total: 515.

Fall of wickets: 1-230, 2-318, 3-345, 4-380, 5-394, 6-447, 7-461, 8-475, 9-513.

Maharashtra bowling: Samad Fallah 37-8-93-3, Anupam Sanklecha 30-7-83-1, Akshay Darekar 28.5-4-108-0, Srikanth Mundhe 31.1-5-90-3, Chirag Khurana 39.1-10-110-2, Sangram Atitkar 5-0-18-0.

Maharashtra — 2nd innings: Harshad Khadiwale c Ganesh b Vinay 9, Vijay Zol c Gautam b Vinay 31, Ankit Bawne st. Gautam b Gopal 61, Kedar Jadhav c Uthappa b Vinay 112, Sangram Atitkar c Amit b Gopal 0, Chirag Khurana c Uthappa b Vinay Kumar 37, Rohit Motwani c Gautam b Mithun 21, Srikant Mundhe c Gautam b Gopal 42, Anupam Sanklecha c Nair b Mithun 14, Akshay Darekar c Uthappa b Gopal 13, Samad Fallah (not out) 2. Extras: (b-6, lb-4, nb-3, w-11) 24. Total: 366.

Fall of wickets: 1-18, 2-54, 3-172, 4-174, 5-261, 6-268, 7-307, 8-338, 9-362.

Karnataka bowling: Vinay Kumar 29-1-116-4, Abhimanyu Mithun 22-1-77-2, Sreenath Aravind 21-0-67-0, Uthappa 2-0-15-0, Manish Pandey 2-0-14-0, Shreyas Gopal 13.2-1-47-4, Amit Verma 2-0-20-0.

Karnataka — 2nd innings: Robin Uthappa c Khurana b Darekar 36, Lokesh Rahul c Khurana b Mundhe 29, Amit Verma c & b Khurana 38, Manish Pandey (not out) 28, Karun Nair (not out) 20. Extras: (b-1, lb-2, nb-3) 6. Total: (for three wickets) 157.

Fall of wickets: 1-65, 2-87, 3-120.

Maharashtra bowling: Samad Fallah 11-2-28-0, Anupam Sanklecha 3-2-7-0, Akshay Darekar 10-0-46-1, Chirag Khurana 8.5-0-53-1, Srikant Mundhe 8-1-20-1.