Silent performer

While M. Vijay has not been in great nick this season, Abhinav Mukund (left) has been instrumental in anchoring the Tamil Nadu innings.-K. PICHUMANI While M. Vijay has not been in great nick this season, Abhinav Mukund (left) has been instrumental in anchoring the Tamil Nadu innings.

Dropped after a brief stint with the national side, Tamil Nadu's Abhinav Mukund has let his bat do all the talking, writes G. Viswanath.

There is something bizarre about Tamil Nadu openers, especially those who bat left-handed. They score heavily in the domestic tournaments, win the national selectors' nod and fade away from the scene after playing for a few years. W. V. Raman played 11 Tests and scored 448 runs while Sadagopan Ramesh played 19 scoring 1367 runs. Though not an opener, Hemang Badani, also a left-hander, was capped only four times. All three have a reason to consider themselves unlucky not to have played for longer time than they did.

Hopefully Abhinav Mukund would not meet the same fate as his predecessors. He's is only 22 and was clearly done in by the whims of the touring selection committee in England when he was dropped after a five-match run that began with his debut against the West Indies at Sabina Park. They accommodated a not so fully fit Virender Sehwag for the third Test at Edgbaston.

India suffered — Sehwag was dismissed for a first ball duck in both innings and made eight off six balls and 33 off 67 balls in the final Test at The Oval. The tour selectors gambled with Sehwag. It did not pay.

Given a chance in the absence of an injured Sehwag in the West Indies and England (Lord's and Trent Bridge), Mukund did not appear to be out of sorts. He made 11 and 25 and was involved in a 56-run partnership with Rahul Dravid in the second innings of the first Test at Sabina Park.

In the second innings of the second Test at Kensington Oval, he and Dravid put on 63 for the second wicket. Mukund's contribution was 48. He notched his first half century in the third Test at Windsor Park and forged a partnership of 98 runs for the third wicket with V. V. S. Laxman.

In England, he shared an opening stand of 63 with Gautam Gambhir in the first Test at Lord's, falling short of another half-century by a run. He generally gave a fine account of himself before the axe fell on him following his scores of 0 and 3 in the second Test against England at Trent Bridge.

Mukund, though, has not allowed the setback to affect him. He persevered and scored 1044 runs in domestic cricket in the season gone by, beginning with a second innings century for Rest of India against Rajasthan in the Irani Trophy in Jaipur. He topped the Tamil Nadu score-sheet with 872 runs with two centuries and three half centuries and a healthy average of 72.66.

Abhinav Mukund was the mainstay of Tamil Nadu's batting this season.-K. PICHUMANI

After a good start in the 2007-08 season Mukund shot into prominence with an unbeaten 300 against Maharashtra in a Ranji Trophy league match in Nashik. He and Murali Vijay shared an opening partnership of 462.

While Vijay has not been in great nick this season, Mukund has been instrumental in anchoring the Tamil Nadu innings. He has already played 56 first class matches, scoring 4752 runs with 16 centuries and 13 half centuries. These are numbers no one can ignore; including the national selectors.

* * * Heroes from Plate Division

Left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar (in pic) can claim to have played a big role in Maharashtra's entry into the Ranji Trophy knockout phase from the Plate League. He took 32 wickets — the highest in the Plate League — and was the only bowler in the division to take 10 wickets in a match. Darekar took five wickets in an innings four times. He has a rich haul of 52 wickets in just two seasons. Maharashtra will be looking to him next season to stay afloat in the Elite League.

Dheeraj Jadav

Another Maharashtra player — but turning out for Assam — topped the batting charts in the Plate Division. Dheeraj Jadav played five matches and scored as many centuries to aggregate 704 runs for his adopted team. His performances earned him a place in the East Zone squad for the Duleep Trophy. Jadhav made his debut 12 years ago and played for Maharashtra 35 times before moving as a professional to Assam.

— G. Viswanath