In a Ranji season that was stretched across the IPL frenzy, teams that came in with refined tactics were destined to prevail. In Bengaluru, strangled in motionless gridlocks along its strips all along the 20 kilometres from the city to the centre of cricketing activity in Alur, momentum became the primer.
While lopsided contests were expected across three quarterfinals, the Punjab versus Madhya Pradesh game hinged on a test of verve — a question of who was more desperate to squeeze through. MP’s young blood prevailed over Punjab’s lofty batting order which failed to replicate the fierceness on paper.
The view from deep extra cover/square leg, a neat shade with a red tint but crammed between two burly generators for the broadcasters, with rain being a tease on day one, was certainly not the best. But soon enough, the hassles dwindled to the backdrop as two sides led by highly competitive coaches — Surendra Bhave for Punjab and Chandrakant Pandit for MP — squared off in an enticing skirmish. After sighting a glimmer, Punjab’s packed batting order crumbled before a resurging MP which shed Plan A for a fine return in the second session of play.
Punjab never looked assured to obliterate MP since. MP’s clinical and supreme planning came to the fore when its batters struck the perfect chord with each one acing their roles to perfection. Be it the openers who fended off probing new-ball bursts from Punjab or Shubham Sharma who racked up his third hundred of the tournament, be it the menacing Rajat Patidar who blitzed the park with a truckload of boundaries or the 18-year-old Akshat Raghuwanshi who outshone the former for close to two hours with the blade — MP quelled Punjab’s dreams with inch-perfect execution.
The tales behind the scene were also listless: the young Raghuwanshi who was hand-picked by coach Pandit during a local practice game in MP during an umpiring session or the domestic nomad Kumar Kartikeya who hasn’t been home in nine years, desi cricket blossomed once again.
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