Devdhar brings home Deodhar

The triumphant West Zone team.-K.R. DEEPAK

Dominating the bowlers from the word ‘go’ was opener Kedar Devdhar, who quite untroubled by his partner Parthiv Patel’s early exit, embarked on a determined course, cracking a six and nine boundaries in his 101-ball 94. When Devdhar and Pujara had departed, West stood at 214 for three. Ambati Rayudu and Yusuf Pathan then stepped up the pace to ensure their side set up a sizeable score. By A. Joseph Antony.

West Zone won the Deodhar trophy quite authoritatively at the Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy International Stadium, Visakhapatnam recently, after crushing North Zone. It was West’s third victory on the trot over North in their five successive finals face-offs.

The method and manner in which the winner worked its way to the crown had all the markings of a meticulous Mumbai enterprise, although the only player in the side from the metropolis was Dhawal Kulkarni. Even on the eve of the showdown, Cheteshwar Pujara’s thoughts proved prescient, evidently based on cold calculations, carefully considering the flamboyant opposition his side was up against.

“We need to assess the (match) situation at the right times,” he said. This view was illustrated the following day in frequent fielding changes if not in the deployment of bowlers and their ends. “Since our attacks are almost equal and with the pitch favouring the bowlers more, the batting will make the difference. It’s going to be a challenging game, regardless of whether we bat first or second and we have to be on our toes,” the shrewd skipper said.

Plans on the drawing board would have merely remained so, if they were not carried out in the playing arena. “Our top seven batsmen need to last the allotted 50 overs and we have a good chance,” was Pujara’s expectation from his men. They did much better, mustering a commanding 281 with just three wickets lost. The skipper himself led by example, notching up a sedate 75, his first boundary coming up with his half century.

Kedar Devdhar played a vital knock for West Zone in the final.-

Dominating the bowlers from the word 'go' was opener Kedar Devdhar, who quite untroubled by his partner Parthiv Patel’s early exit, embarked on a determined course, cracking a six and nine boundaries in his 101-ball 94. When Devdhar and Pujara had departed, West stood at 214 for three. Ambati Rayudu and Yusuf Pathan then stepped up the pace to ensure their side set up a sizeable score.

If the batsmen had performed better than planned, the bowlers rose to the occasion too. Giving little width to North’s flamboyant batsmen, they reined in the swashbucklers well. Backed by a tight line, they simply bottled them up. Sure enough, the batsmen fell one after another, considering that flair invariably comes along with impatience.

Kulkarni was at his disciplined best, rarely straying out of the corridor, even if the spoils in the final weren’t so evident. Against Central Zone in the second semi-final, the India discard had a bag of four for 39. West’s fielding was efficient, thanks largely to an attack that thrived on accuracy. Stumper Patel snared seven batsmen to their doom in the last four games, such success is simply not possible without the right stuff from the bowlers.

Yet, West did seem vulnerable against Central Zone, tottering at 105 for four after opting to bat. Captain Pujara stepped in to steady his shaky ship with an 84-ball 60. Continuing his good work was Yusuf Pathan, who pummelled a 57-ball 70, studded with nine boundaries and a six. Until these two gents arrived in the middle, Central had done little wrong, its spinners taking over from where the seamers had left off in keeping West’s batsmen in check.

Rajat Paliwal came good for North Zone in the semi-final against South.-

On the eve of Central’s first game, the quarter-final against East Zone, manager Trevor Gonsalves was very confident of victory. His boys delivered on that promise, highlighted by Naman Ojha’s classy, chanceless, unbeaten 65. After East elected to bat, its endeavour failed to fire, its effort halted by Piyush Chawla’s five for 38. The find of the tournament was Rajat Paliwal, whose unbeaten 107 for North Zone ground South to dust, helping his side record a 100-run win in the first semi-final. The Indian Air Force Sergeant reached three figures in the innings’ final over, a picture of poise all along the way.

Conditions at the venue were highly conducive to competitive cricket, the five-pitch square partial to the bowlers, while batsmen with class did well too. The bounce and carry were even right through the five-day competition. Not surprisingly, compliments came from the commentary box, Daljit Singh, Chairman, Ground/pitches committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), players and visiting officials. Incidentally, it was during the final of the limited overs tournament that the Supreme Court suggested Sunil Gavaskar take over as the board’s interim president. It was also for the first time that the tournament was played under floodlights. There was enough excitement to bring in a goodly crowd that turned up almost every evening.

The scores: Final — West Zone 281 for three (Devdhar 94, Pujara 75, Rayudu 46 not out) beat North Zone 148 (Mandeep 37, Vasavada three for 20) by 133 runs.