South asserts supremacy

WHILE the entire cricketing fraternity the world over, including India, was engrossed in the cricket carnival in South Africa, the youth brigade of India battled for supremacy in the under-19 all-India Col. C. K. Nayudu cricket tournament at Nagpur.

South Zone, spearheaded by the pace duo Kalyan Krishna and Tamil Kumaran, (13 wickets apiece in the tournament) emerged triumphant in the end.

South's overall supremacy was unmatched as its four wins in four outings saddled it on top with 16 points. North, after its two early losses to South and West, recovered well to finish runner-up with 10 points including two bonus points. West Zone, with nine points, ended third while host Central and East with four points each were placed fourth.

A total of 10 matches were played at two venues, the Vidarbha Cricket Association ground and the Ordinance Factory ground. The wickets provided even opportunity for strokeplay and to the bowlers with pace and bounce.

South Zone posted comfortable victories over Central Zone by six wickets; over East by three wickets; over West by six wickets and a well-merited 12-run win over North Zone. Dinesh Kartik (180 runs from four matches) and southpaw Vasudeva (172 runs from four matches) were the mainstay of the South Zone team with supporting roles coming from Anup Pai (139) and T. Suman (124). However, none of the South batsmen scored a century,

while there were four hundreds from batsmen of other zones (Avik Choudhary 2, Faiz Fazal 1 and Suresh Raina 1).

East Zone, with only four points from one win over Central (also four points) had the tournament top-scorer, opener Avik Choudhary (282 runs) in its ranks. Avik notched up two centuries — 111 against South and 114 against Central. He displayed a fine array of shots in front of the wicket and looked a good prospect.

North Zone's inconsistency proved costly both on the team and the individual performance fronts. Opener Manvider Bisla was the highest scorer for his side in the four matches played with an overall tally of 185 runs, while Salil Oberoi was second with 128. Spinners Aparaji Singh (7 wickets) and Rajesh Sharma (6) provided the much-needed penetration to the North attack after the team's over-dependence on pacers in the early matches proved futile.

West Zone, after its opening loss to Central, regrouped and won two matches against East and North. Its only other loss came against the eventual champion South Zone. Middle-order batsman Vinit Indurkar (148) and Tihil Patel (139) provided some stability to the West batting. Tihil Patel completed his all-round effort with eight wickets in the tournament.

Host Central Zone had little to cheer barring its only win over West by five wickets. Opener Faiz Fazal, an India under-17 player, cruised to a fine century (126) in the match to take his side to victory. However, his form deserted him after that. Suresh Raina's 108 against South was the only other high point for Central. Suresh also took eight wickets in four matches.

The week-long tournament further provided an insight into the future of the Indian cricket in times to come. There were very few high points — only four centuries and three five-wicket hauls in 10 games — and barring South Zone none of the teams showed much resilience to fight against the odds. The fielding efforts on the part of the youngsters showed great improvement but overall team effort, particularly the batting skill, was found wanting.

The ground conditions and infrastructure were excellent and one certainly expected much better efforts from the lads who definitely have good playing and training facilities for their age compared to the earlier days.

Shashank Manohar, President of the Vidarbha Cricket Association was formally introduced to the players on the opening day at the Vidarbha Cricket Association ground. — Rajan Nair