Districts to the fore

The Combined Districts team which won the Buchi Babu tournament.-K. PICHUMANI

The team led by Arun Karthick became the first Combined Districts side to win the Buchi Babu trophy.

Team-spirit was reflected in the celebrations. The Combined Districts players rejoiced as one after their triumph in the Buchi Babu cricket tournament. They had made history in the competition.

The side led by K. B. Arun Karthick is the first Districts team to win the Buchi Babu tournament. In the dressing room, the Districts players were unwilling to let the moment fly away. They danced and sang in the dressing room, wearing white dhoties and red head scarves.

The outfit symbolised rural Tamil Nadu and sent a clear message — cricket has spread its wings to the less glamorous areas of the state.

The Districts had been clinical in the final at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. Dismissing Hyderabad XI for 154, it breezed to the target for a seven-wicket win.

“They are all so naturally athletic and they played a fearless brand of cricket. And they played as a unit,” said Hyderabad coach Venkatapathy Raju.

The hero of the final, S. Suresh Kumar, encapsulated the qualities Raju spoke about. The lithe cricketer is a natural. Apart from being a sweet timer of the ball who finds the gaps effortlessly, Suresh Kumar is developing into an off-spinner who can bowl with a much-neglected commodity — control. And he is a swift mover on the field.

Suresh Kumar’s six for 35 in 24.4 immaculate overs sunk Hyderabad. He operated around the off-stump, spinning the deliveries into the right-handers and straightening the odd ball. His deliveries gripped the surface and a few of them reared up at the batsmen. Earlier, Suresh Kumar’s 95 against the New Zealand ‘A’ attack that included Shane Bond, Kyle Mills and Tim Southee was an effort of grace and balance. He is a man for the future.

Chasing Districts’ 359 for eight, New Zealand ‘A’ was bundled out for 157. The boys from the Districts were not intimidated by names.

In Arun Karthick the Districts had a captain who instilled belief in his men. He also led from the front while opening the innings. His 86 against New Zealand ‘A’, 124 versus Assam in the semifinal and 68 in the final were strokeful efforts. Arun Karthick is a clean striker of the ball and plays with a pleasingly full blade.

The Districts invariably found men for the moment. Paceman R. Jesuraj seamed the ball with precision while M. K. Sivakumar and K. Sriram lent him useful support. The side backed itself in all situations.

Hyderabad did well to progress to the final. The return of Ambati Rayudu from ICL is good news for the side. The talented right-hander batted capably at No. 3; Rayudu’s 97 against Karnataka XI in the semifinals was an innings by a batsman growing in maturity.

This year’s format — both sides faced a maximum of 90 overs each over two days — and the nature of the draw — the top team from each of the four groups progressed to the semifinals — resulted in a few upsets. Inclement weather and a couple of ordinary sessions saw holder TNCA XI being eliminated in the league phase.

Krishnamachari Srikkanth, the chairman of the National selection panel, gave away the prizes. “Cricket has moved to the smaller towns and villages of the country,” he said.

The scores (final): Hyderabad XI 154 in 78.4 overs (Abhinav Kumar 30, S. Suresh Kumar six for 35) lost to Combined Districts 156 for three in 38.3 overs (K. B. Arun Karthick 68, R. Srinivasan 31 not out).

S. Dinakar * * * RENAULT SUMMONED

Renault was told on September 4 that it must appear before an extraordinary hearing of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council to answer charges that it caused a deliberate crash in last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The meeting will take place in Paris on September 21 when team officials will be asked to account for Nelson Piquet’s (in pic) crash in the night race, after suspicions were raised that the accident was intentional with the aim of helping team-mate Fernando Alonso to win.

“Renault F1 have been requested to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Monday, 21 September 2009,” said a statement released by the FIA. “The team representatives have been called to answer charges... that the team conspired with its driver, Nelson Piquet Jr, to cause a deliberate crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of its other driver, Fernando Alonso.”

Alonso’s victory in Singapore came after he had enjoyed the advantage of refuelling just before Piquet’s crash, which introduced the safety car period.

Piquet has denied all suggestions that he was ordered to crash and instead he has insisted that he spun off because he was pushing too hard.