Mithun, Pandey catch the eye

Abhimanyu Mithun... paceman with immense potential.-PICS: G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Looking at the overall performance in the Ranji season, fast bowler Abhimanyu Mithun and batsman Manish Pandey were the pick of the lot. Over to G. Viswanath.

A genuine fast bowler has emerged with flying colours. Abhimanyu Mithun has announced his arrival with a bang in the Ranji Trophy championship, picking up 47 wickets in 298.5 overs in nine matches. Probably, he will soon get the nod of the national selectors.

The sight of a speed merchant in full cry and going after wickets is a rare scene in domestic tournaments. So, when Mithun, many months away from turning 21, thundered down at Meerut for the first time in a first class match in early November, he made the batsmen’s life miserable at the crease, eventually bagging 11 wickets to win the match for Karnataka.

Mithun was a compelling factor in Karnataka’s remarkable display in the premier national championship. His team rejoiced at his success. No less was the contribution of R. Vinay Kumar with 46 wickets at an average fractionally under 20 as against Mithun’s 23.23.

Mithun and Vinay Kumar, though less fearsome because of lack of pace, shared 93 wickets between them and provided ample evidence of a long-established convention that fast bowlers hunt in pairs.

Manish Pandey (882 runs in nine matches with four 100s and four 50s) was equally devastating with the bat. He almost guided his team to title triumph against Mumbai in the final at the Gangotri Glades, Mysore. He batted with gusto and took the battle to the rival camp when his side was set a fourth innings target of 338. Ultimately, his team lost by six runs.

It was an enjoyable season for the Karnakata team. It fielded young players and had a great time on the field. Apart from Pandey, others to catch the attention were K. B. Pawan, Ganesh Satish and Amit Verma.

Finishing second best to Mumbai in a tight finish ought to have disappointed the team, but its future looks very promising. Karnataka did not win the prize, but won many admirers.

Manish Pandey… tons of runs.-

It has been a remarkable season for Mumbai too. Seasoned campaigners performed with the bat and ball and showed the way. Ajit Agarkar, the vice-captain, shared responsibilities with captain Wasim Jaffer and Ramesh Powar.

Agarkar struck deadly blows when it mattered the most, in the final. He also proved that on tracks that afford bounce and seam, he will be tough to handle. His five-wicket haul in the second innings thwarted Karnataka’s strong bid for the title. He also made 401 runs and a high percentage of them proved vital, against teams like Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. Without his splendid endeavour Mumbai might not have advanced beyond the Super League.

Ramesh Powar struggled with the ball almost right though the season, but a superb century against Punjab in the opening match just about reflected his attitude and this rubbed off on his colleagues. When the pitch afforded turn, he was at it, taking five wickets against Delhi at the Brabourne Stadium. The Mumbai batsmen were struggling until Rohit Sharma came up with good knocks against Railways and Gujarat.

Ajinkya Rahane scored 809 runs and Jaffer 638 on the way to the semifinals. Two other valuable contributors were wicketkeeper Vinayak Samant and Iqbal Abdulla. Samant chipped in when needed, and Abdulla took 32 wickets and scored 295 runs. He got the valuable wicket of Pandey in the final; it changed the course of the match.

Tamil Nadu was another team that had a decent run till it went down to Delhi on a flat wicket at Palam Ground. Its main batsmen scored runs aplenty. Ganapathy showed his utility with the ball and bat and Aushik Srinivas was impressive with his left arm spin. For Delhi, wicketkeeper Punit Bisht had a wonderful season with the bat.

This season saw many of the former ICL players back in action, thanks to BCCI’s change of mind. The umpires were ordered to come down heavily on bowlers with suspect action and the home and away policy was restored for the knock-out matches. A couple of Match Referees punished the erring cricketers. Gujarat’s Mohnish Parmar, Baroda’s Rajesh Pawar and Himachal Pradesh’s Sarandeep Singh disappeared from the scene after a couple matches. The BCCI drew up a list of 35 with suspect action, and this included former India seamer L. Balaji.

From the Plate Division, Haryana and Assam qualified for the knock-out. Next season these two will figure in the Super League. The tournament proved again that the traditional teams are still a force, though Hyderabad’s relegation to the Plate League was a setback.

Looking at the overall performance, fast bowler Abhimanyu Mithun and batsman Manish Pandey were the pick of the lot this Ranji season.