PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: Yes, all the cliches you hear during a Test match or ODI commentary are true—“It was a fitting finale,” “The result did not matter,” “The game was the ultimate winner”—and I don’t say this as a fan of the losing team.
Indeed, at the end of the four innings, there was little to differentiate between the two teams, although the scorecard would find six runs. Bombay had more experience playing, more experience winning. Karnataka had oodles of youth and one incandescent star flickering to life in this match.
And boy, did the shimmer off Manish Pandey‘s willow light up the ocean of learning (Manasagangothri) this morning!?
We had seen both teams exhibit almost everything that two top teams playing in a cricketing nation’s top domestic match should: good bowling, fantastic catching and great fighting spirit. But what had been missing the first three days, was the X factor that has crowds ooh-ing and aah-ing.
That was delivered to the Gangotri Glades by a 20-year-old. For nearly two hours, Manish Pandey elevated batting to levels not seen in the past three days. Perhaps, with the exception of Wasim Jaffer no other player in either side was even capable of coming close to those standards.
It wasn’t merely that Pandey batted freely, his 144 coming off a mere 151 balls. His shot selection and stroke-making was top-notch, and he dismissed everything thrown at him at him imperiously.
At times, it seemed to me that Pandey wasn’t batting to win the match.
He wasn’t competing with the Bombay bowlers.
For all he cared, they could have been local bowlers at the nets. The challenging circumstances Karnataka was facing at the final hurdle to a seventh crown didn’t seem to matter. He just batted at a high level simply, perhaps, because that’s what comes naturally to him.
When batting is elevated to such heights, opponents and circumstances do not matter.
The scorecard says he made 85 runs off 80 balls this morning, with 9 fours and a six. His elegant and highly cultured strokeplay simplified batting to his partner, Ganesh Satish, with whom he added 209 runs. Karnataka were 255 for 3, when Pandey got out and Karnataka needed another 85 runs, which looked gettable within an hour-and-a-half, since Pandey and Satish had scored at a run a minute.
One wishes Pandey had stayed at the wicket until the end, if only to see how he would have batted under pressure as the target became smaller. Perhaps, such challenges are more appropriate for workman-like batsmen, whose forte is patience and temperament, and who specialise in eliminating risk and accumulating runs.
The fourth-wicket partnership between Pandey and Satish should have been a match winning partnership, but this young Karnataka team found a way to lose the game. Home team supporters would point at a couple of poor umpiring decisions, but the fact remains that this match could have easily gone the other way.
The atmosphere at Glades was electric, with overflowing crowd watching the game from trees, light poles and any other place, which offered a view of the field. Nearly 10,000 people cheered the home team lustily, and the Glades offered a fantastic setting for this game.
After the match, Wasim Jaffer defended the visitors’ decision to bat first, even though the wicket had moisture and helped seam bowling. Jaffer said they expected the pitch to be soft initially and then get hard, which made batting difficult on the second day. When we look back at the first inning performances, perhaps he has a point.
Yet neither team impressed me, admittedly an amateur cricket enthusiast, with their tactical acumen.
For instance, Bombay this morning could have bowled their overs quickly using spinners to take the new ball just before lunch or immediately after lunch. This would have put Karnataka batsmen under some pressure but bowling with the old ball, their fast bowlers conceded 27 runs off four overs to Sunil Joshi and Stuart Binny, who with some belligerent batting almost swung the match Karnataka’s way.
But it was too little.
Binny, who had a chance to justify his selection to this match and indeed longevity in the state side, failed miserably and perhaps it is time to blood one more youngster in his place. He was clearly the weak link on the field, and off the field too, given the rumours of a late night at the Mysore Sports Club.
A final word on the winner’s conduct, in particular the victory celebration.
Throughout the match, they seemed to needle the Karnataka players in the middle but complained constantly against real or perceived slights, either by the players or the crowd. Their muscular celebration at the end seemed to embody the so-called “Spirit of Bombay” and one could certainly understand their elation given the close and hard fought battle.
Abhishek Nayar‘s antics, however, were the most disgraceful acts I have ever seen on a cricket field.
He thrust his crotch at a section of the crowd, and at one point even seem to hold his balls in his hand, shouting repeatedly: “Come on.” His behavior in general seems to be as ugly as his batting stance, and notwithstanding his cricketing accomplishments, if such behaviour isn’t questioned or curbed, then shame on the authorities, and the media, if it remains silent.
Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi is on the faculty of San Francisco State University, specialising in medieval South India (especially Kannada literature and cinema) and the cultural politics of contemporary South Asia.
Photograph: Neo Sports anchor V.B. Chandrashekhar prepares for the final act of the finals of the Ranji Trophy finals at the Gangotri Glades in Mysore on Thursday as KSCA officials (from left) vice-president P.R. Ashokanand, secretary Brijesh Patel, president Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, M.R. Krishna, KSCA (Mysore Zone) secretary Satyanarayana Nadig, convenor R.K. Harikrishna Kumar, and chairman Sunaad Raghuram look on.
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