West the best

The triumphant West Zone team.-ASHOKE CHAKRABARTY

With a fine all-round performance, West Zone bagged the Duleep Trophy in Cuttack. S. Sabanayakan reports.

After six days of high-octane action, West Zone emerged a convincing winner of the 36th Prof. D. B. Deodhar Trophy inter-zonal cricket tournament in Cuttack. In doing so, the all-conquering West side established two records in the final against East Zone — that of scoring the highest total of 362 for five in 50 overs and registering the highest victory margin of 218 runs.

It was a season of great eminence for West. By bagging the Deodhar Trophy for the ninth time, West recorded a creditable double in domestic cricket, the team having won the Duleep Trophy earlier. Mumbai, which provided a substantial number of players to the zonal side, had won the Ranji Trophy and this signalled a complete domination of Indian domestic cricket by teams from the West.

It was a great personal satisfaction, too, for Mumbai and West Zone skipper Wasim Jaffer. He led from the front and figured in all three title-triumphs prominently. Jaffer’s elegant 116 (108b, 15x4, 1x6) in the final was a knock to be remembered. Grace, poise and balance marked his sixth hundred and his 158-run, fourth-wicket partnership in 143 balls with Cheteshwar Pujara (94, 86b, 7x4, 2x6), took the title away from East.

Two superb knocks, one from India Twenty20 specialist Ravindra Jadeja (61 not out) and the other from all-rounder Abhishek Nayar (54 not out), powered West beyond the previous best total of 348 for six by East against Central, set in 2004-05. West’s total was also the highest at the Barabati Stadium, surpassing the previous best of 305 for six by East against North in the same tournament. Jaffer also emerged the highest run-getter with 209 in three innings. The next best was Pujara’s 180 in three innings.

East’s reply was pathetic to say the least as the team simply caved in for 144 in 39.4 overs. When the two East batsmen who supported the side’s cause in the previous two games, Ishank Jaggi, a 20-year-old from Jharkhand and Bengal’s wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha, failed, the final became a mockery of a match. Both Jaggi (166) and Saha (155) were third and fourth best run-getters in the tournament. The finalists won their league matches with a measure of comfort. West was clubbed with South Zone and the Zimbabwe President’s XI in Group B, while East had holder Central Zone and a record 11-time champion North Zone as opponents in Group A.

East began the tournament as an underdog, a tag that suited the young team led by Bengal’s Manoj Tiwary. After Central lost to North in a high scoring game at the new venue in Cuttack, the Ravenshaw University ground, East put North to the sword at the Barabati Stadium. North captain Mithun Manhas won the toss and put East in to bat. He paid dearly for it as the latter ran up a total of 305 for six thanks to Jaggi’s unbeaten 110 and Saha’s 84. Then East’s bowlers got into action with Assam’s Dhiraj Goswami bowling his military mediumpace with great effect to bag four for 35, the best bowling figures of the tournament.

North lost the game, conceded a bonus point to East and went out of the tournament with three points.

Wasim Jaffer, the best batsman.-PTI

West began with a flourish against South Zone, winning the contest by 71 runs. There were good contributions from the top order, Jaffer excelling with a superb 81. The South batsmen fell like ninepins with none showing any responsibility to occupy the crease. The win earned West five points, including a bonus.

The Zimbabwe boys were no match to West’s collective effort and lost the game, conceding the bonus point as well. West, thus, entered the final. Central was charged up against East as it needed to win by a bonus point. The pitch sported a greenish tinge and Central inserted East. Rudra Pratap Singh, on a comeback bid to the Indian team, the promising Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and the big-built Pankaj Singh failed to make an impact on the opening pair of Saha and Natraj Behera, who put on 99 runs, in a match reduced to 48 overs.

East’s 257 for seven proved to be a match-winning score as its pacemen, Ashok Dinda and Ranadeb Bose, got early breakthroughs to reduce Central to 69 for six. The defending champion recovered through some bold batting by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (72) and Piyush Chawla (93), but the effort was not enough to stop East from marching into the final.

Ranadeb Bose, the best bowler.-PTI

East bowling spearhead Ranadeb Bose emerged as the best bowler of the tournament with a haul of seven for 153 from three games with a best of three for 46. Good support came from fellow-pacemen Ashok Dinda (5/170; 2-43) and Dhiraj Goswami (6/136; 4-35). Four West bowlers figured prominently in the title triumph: spinners Ravindra Jadeja (5/71; 2-16) and Iqbal Abdullah (5/77, 3-28) and medium-pacers Siddharth Trivedi (5/83; 2-27) and Abhishek Nayar (5-91; 2-26).

The participation of Zimbabwe as the sixth side set the tone for future. A foreign entry was entertained in the Duleep Trophy in the past, and the introduction of one in the limited overs version had favourable support from the captains of the zonal sides. But the quality of the opposition was poor.

The Board’s decision to play the tournament at one venue was also praised by the teams. Unnecessary travel, especially at the end of the domestic season, was avoided, giving the players more time to rest and practice.

The Orissa Cricket Association (OCA), which has hosted Test and ODIs in the past, did a splendid job.

THE SCORES

Final: West Zone 362 for five (W. Jaffer 116, C. Pujara 94, R. Jadeja 61 not out, A. Nayar 54 not out) bt East Zone 144 in 39.4 overs (D. Goswami 40 not out) by 218 runs.

League, Group A: Central Zone 250 for nine (N. Ojha 100, M. Kaif 46, V. Malik 3-38, P. Sangwan 3-55) lost to North Zone 251 for three in 47.5 overs (A. Chopra 56, R. Dewan 38, V. Kohli 79 not out, M. Manhas 44) by seven wickets.

East Zone 305 for six in 50 overs (W. Saha 84, N. Behera 41, I. Jaggi 110 not out, S. Tiwary 52) bt North Zone 240 in 49.4 overs (A. Chopra 58, M. Manhas 58, D. Goswami 4-35) by 65 runs.

East Zone 257 for seven in 48 overs (W. Saha 69, I. Jaggi 48, S. Tiwary 40) bt Central Zone 239 in 47.4 overs (B. Kumar 72, P. Chawla 93, R. Bose 3-46) by 18 runs.

Standings: East 9 points, North 3 and Central 0.

Group B: West Zone 223 in 49.2 overs (A. Rahane 33, W. Jaffer 81, C. Pujara 33, R. Jadeja 39, S. Aravind 4-41) bt South Zone 152 in 42.2 overs (V. Manoj Sai 47, R. Ashwin 27) by 71 runs.

Zimbabwe President’s XI 193 in 49.5 overs (S. Matsikenyeri 36, F. Mutizwa 40) lost to South Zone 194 for seven in 40 overs (S. Anirudha 32, A. Yadav 71, R. Ashwin 50 not out) by three wickets.

Zimbabwe President’s XI 176 for nine (S. Matsikenyeri 44, R. Chakabva 30) lost to West Zone 177 for four in 38.1 overs (A. Rahane 41, C. Pujara 53 not out) by six wickets.

Standings: West Zone 10 points, South 4 and Zimbabwe 2.

* * * Drama, Bollywood-like

Three West Zone players, Cheteshwar Pujara, Iqbal Abdullah and Bhavik Thaker, fresh from winning the 36th edition of the Prof. D. B. Deodhar Trophy cricket tournament at Cuttack, were in for a shock when they decided to leave on March 18 for Kolkata to join the Kolkata Knight Riders’ practice.

Travelling by a vehicle arranged by the official travel agent to Bhubaneswar airport to take the first flight out, the three had a harrowing time when two youths on a motorcycle stopped the cab on the highway, forced the three players to disembark with their luggage and sped away with the vehicle.

The distraught players phoned the Orissa Cricket Association for help and another vehicle was rushed to take them to the airport.

The story behind the incident was that the vehicle in which the players were travelling was hypothecated to a bank and the owner had defaulted in paying the monthly instalment. The bank had employed two musclemen to seize the vehicle which they did without any hassle leaving the players in the lurch.

Insiders say intra-association rivalry could be the reason so as to embarrass the ruling group. The timing of the seizure and the location clearly indicate it was orchestrated to give maximum effect.

However, the point remains as to why and how the players were allowed to leave without proper security. The OCA has some explaining to do to the Board.