West Zone’s tryst with history

A jubilant West Zone team with the Duleep Trophy.-PICS: K. RAMESH BABU

On the back of Yusuf Pathan’s herculean effort, West Zone completes a world-record run chase to retain the Duleep Trophy. V. V. Subrahmanyam reports.

It was a great advertisement for domestic cricket in India. The cricket fans could not have asked for a better feast than the Duleep Trophy final between West Zone, the defending champion, and South Zone. Two individuals, the South Zone captain Dinesh Karthik and Yusuf Pathan of West Zone, stood apart from the rest of their team-mates for their splendid performances with the bat. And most importantly, West Zone completed a world-record run chase at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad to retain the trophy.

Dinesh Karthik served a reminder to the selectors of his stature as a batsman — though he had disappointed as wicketkeeper with the National team during the recent tour of Bangladesh — as he became the only skipper to score a century in each innings of a Duleep Trophy final. But if he, like many others at the stadium, thought those two wonderful knocks were good enough for his team to emerge winner, he was in for a major disappointment.

The big-hitting Yusuf Pathan — who also scored a century in each innings — stunned the crowd with his match-winning unbeaten 210 (190 balls, 19x4, 10x6) in the second innings. It was a knock played under tremendous pressure, both mental and physical, as he had suffered severe cramps after crossing the three-figure mark. His amazing innings was the cornerstone of what eventually turned out to be a world-record successful run chase.

Set to score 536 for victory, West Zone’s chase commenced in fading light on the third day and there weren’t many who were optimistic of its chances. But the West Zone players showed tremendous fighting spirit.

First, the openers, Chirag Pathak (130, 16x4, 3x6) and Harshad Khadiwale (45) put on a century stand to lay a solid foundation. Then, it was the turn of captain Wasim Jaffer (66) to join Pathak in another century stand that gave West Zone’s run chase the momentum.

It was a huge challenge for West Zone though as the situation demanded not just dazzling stroke-play but also judicious stroke-selection. And to make things a bit easy for West Zone, the South Zone fielders were too generous and clearly paid the penalty for dropping Yusuf Pathan on four occasions. Three of those catches were floored on the final day when Yusuf was on 84 and West Zone needed to make another 157 runs for victory with four wickets in hand.

Great feat... Yusuf Pathan poses in front of the scoreboard after guiding West Zone to victory with an unbeaten 210.-

Yusuf, who suffered severe cramps when on 126, soldiered on despite the physical agony. (His brother Irfan Pathan came in as his runner.) The cramps, however, did not affect his stroke-play as Yusuf launched into those big hits, carting the bowlers into the stands. And quite fittingly, it was a huge straight six off Sreenath Arvind that heralded West Zone’s victory 39 minutes after lunch on the final day.

Earlier, Karthik batted with aplomb for his century in the first innings (183, 226 balls, 25x4, 1x6) which helped South Zone score 400. His stroke selection was remarkable and his timing sweet. He handled both the pace bowlers and spinners with ease.

Karthik followed it up with another century in the second innings (150, 162 balls, 22x4, 1x6) as South declared at 386 for nine. Lucky to be dropped off the second ball he faced, Karthik never looked back. It was a great effort from the wicketkeeper-batsman especially after the top-order had caved in to Dhawal Kulkarni, whose spell of 7-1-14-4 reduced South Zone to 71 for four on the third morning. Undeterred, Karthik went on courageously at the other end. And in the company of the free-stroking C. M. Gautam (88, 8x4, 1x6) he ensured that West was set a huge target.

Dinesh Karthik... century in each innings. His tremendous effort was overshadowed by Yusuf Pathan’s heroics and West Zone’s historic triumph.-

Karthik was disappointed with the defeat. He rued the dropped catches, especially on the final day when Yusuf Pathan cut loose. “Full credit to Yusuf Pathan for a great innings. Well, when they could chase 536, I don’t think another 30 or 40 runs would have made any difference,” said Karthik when asked if he had declared South Zone’s innings a little too early.

Wasim Jaffer was proud to lead a team that created history. “I thank God for giving me the opportunity to lead victorious teams, in the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy.

Yusuf played an outstanding innings which changed the course of the game. But there were very good performances such as Irfan’s spell in the first innings, Dhawal’s bowling in the second innings and not to forget the century stand by the openers when the chase was on,” he said.

* * * My job is to score runs: Yusuf Pathan

Yusuf Pathan posing in front of the scoreboard after leading West Zone’s successful world record run chase was one of the memorable moments in Indian domestic cricket. And for Yusuf, it was a culmination of a battle within more than against the bowlers out there in the middle.

His performance was a gentle reminder to the cricketing world of his awesome potential as a batsman. For someone known for throwing caution to the winds with his extravagant stroke-play, Yusuf played two good knocks in the final of the Duleep Trophy against South Zone. Batting as if he were playing in a T20 game, he helped West Zone script history. Thanks to his unbeaten 210, which could easily go down as one of the most memorable innings in domestic cricket, notwithstanding the reprieves he enjoyed, West Zone successfully chased down 536 for victory.

It was a situation that demanded a lot of mental toughness from a batsman and Yusuf, who had scored a 76-ball 108 in the first innings, responded admirably. He paced his innings well despite suffering severe cramps immediately after crossing the three-figure mark. Initially he was refused a runner, but later his brother Irfan Pathan was allowed to come in as his by-runner.

Did he not think of coming off the field?

“No. If a new batsman gets out, we will lose the momentum. And there will be gain only if there is pain,” he said with a smile.

And not surprisingly Yusuf rates this knock as the best of his career. “Why shouldn’t it be? I really enjoyed every moment despite all the pain during the later part of the innings,” he remarked.

“Definitely, I was aware that we were chasing history, and even when I suffered those cramps I was conscious that we were inching towards that record score,” Yusuf explained.

They say fortune favours the brave and so was the case with this champion batsman who defied all odds and overcame physical agony to score a match-winning double century.

“I knew that it was me who had to finish off the match after the fall of Chirag Pathak, Wasim Jaffer and Irfan Khan on fourth day,” said Yusuf.

Preferring to speak in Hindi, he said he had never thought of curbing his natural game – which is attacking the bowlers.

Were you not scared of losing your wicket which could have cost your team the match?

“Never. I was in there with the specific job of scoring runs. No, not even the captain sent me any message to slow down,” he said.

Later, the West Zone skipper, Wasim Jaffer, himself said that there was no point in telling someone like Yusuf to stay calm.

Yusuf is pretty modest about his match-winning innings. “It would be unfair to forget so many individual performances and all those who supported me in the second innings. But for them we would not have been able to achieve this feat,” he said.

Will this innings help his international career?

“I cannot comment on my selection chances. But I will keep performing and leave it to them (selectors) to decide. My job is to simply score runs,” he said.

THE SCORES

South Zone — 1st innings: S. Anirudha c P. Shah b Irfan Pathan 19, K. B. Pawan lbw b Irfan Pathan 0, K. B. Arun Karthik c Jaffer b Kulkarni 22, G. Satish c (sub) Abdullah b Irfan Pathan 53, D. Karthik c Thakker b I. Pathan 183, C. M. Gautam c Khadiwale b Jadeja 49, R. Prem c Pathak b Jadeja 24, C. Ganapathy c Pathak b I. Pathan 12, S. Aravind c Pathak b Salvi 1,A. Absolom (not out) 15, R. Aushik Srinivas b I. Pathan 0. Extras: (lb-9, nb-7, w-6) 22. Total: 400

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-34, 3-76, 4-120, 5-241, 6-330, 7-364, 8-367, 9-389.

West Zone bowling: Irfan Pathan 26-3-100-5, Kulkarni 21-2-90-2, Salvi 20-4-53-1, Khadiwale 2-0-8-0, Jadeja 16-2-58-2, Powar 16-1-70-0, Yusuf Pathan 2-0-12-0.

West Zone — 1st innings: C. Pathak c Dinesh Karthik b Ganapathy 4, H. Khadiwale c A. Karthik b C. Ganapathy 12, W. Jaffer c Anirudha b Ganapathy 11, Yusuf Pathan lbw b A. Srinivas 108, B. Thakker b Ganapathy 0, R. Jadeja c Anirudha b S. Aravind 10, I. Pathan c Dinesh Karthik b A. Absolom 21, R. Powar c Dinesh Karthik b Ganapathy 20, P. Shah (run out) 19, D. Kulkarni (not out) 27, A. Salvi c Gautam b S. Aravind 16. Extras: (nb-3) 3. Total: 251.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-18, 3-62, 4-70, 5-113, 6-161, 7-184, 8-188, 9-221.

South Zone bowling: Ganapathy 17-1-75-5, Absolom 13-3-49-1, Aravind 16.2-5-76-2, Aushik Srinivas 10-3-51-1.

South Zone — 2nd innings: S. Anirudha c Pathak b Kulkarni 37, K.B. Pawan c Jadeja b Kulkarni 20, K.B. Arun Karthik b Kulkarni 1, G. Satish lbw b Kulkarni 6, D. Karthik c (sub) Makwana b I. Pathan 150, C. M. Gautam c Thakker b Jadeja 88, P. R. Prem c (sub) Abdullah b Powar 24, C. Ganapathy b Kulkarni 6, A. Absolom (not out) 27, S. Aravind c Kulkarni b R. Powar 2, R. A. Srinivas (not out) 1;. Extras (b-10, lb-8, n-3, w-3): 24. Total (for nine wkts decl.): 386.

Fall of wickets: 1-55, 2-63, 3-70, 4-71, 5-318, 6-318, 7-352, 8-356, 9-360.

West Zone bowling: Irfan Pathan 13-0-70-1, Salvi 13-1-66-0, Kulkarni 17-4-58-5, Jadeja 17-4-52-1, Powar 23-3-96-2, Yusuf Pathan 5-0-26-0.

West Zone — 2nd innings: C. Pathak b Absolom 130, H. Khadiwale c Gautam b S. Anirudha 45, W. Jaffer lbw b Ganapathy 66, B. Thakker c Gautam b S. Aravind 0, Yusuf Pathan (not out) 210, R. Jadeja b. A. Srinivas 1, I. Pathan b Absolom 42, P. Shah c & b R Prem 16, Powar (not out) 18. Extras: (b-2, lb-1, nb-6, w-4) 13. Total (for seven wkts) 541.

Fall of wickets: 1-117, 2-224, 3-239, 4-263, 5-294, 6-378, 7-483.

South Zone bowling: Ganapathy 33-7-96-1, Absolom 23-2-79-2, Aravind 24.3-3-99-1, Aushik Srinivas 37-4-157-1, Anirudha 3-0-14-1, Rohan 13-1-81-1, Arun Karthik 3-0-12-0.