Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dhoni's Legacy

Sometime ago, I had written an article on the role of a "pioneer" in leading the growth of a sport in a region. Had put in quite a few examples to present my case. But the important thing was all the examples presented were of individual sports. Indian chess, Russian tennis etc. Hadn't quite come up with any example for a team game as such. 

However the India-England ODI in Ranchi last Saturday got me thinking again on these lines. It wasn't just any other random ODI. It was a celebration of Dhoni's legacy. The home town boy leading the national team in the first ever international match in the city. And Dhoni provided the perfect fairy tale as well - from winning the toss to hitting the winning runs. Fairytales hardly get any better. 

Why do I refer to this game as Dhoni's legacy, when he still has a few good years to go? The answer is simple. If Dhoni hadn't been the player he was, its quite unlikely that Ranchi would have got such an impressive stadium and certainly not hosting this game. After all Keenan stadium in Jamshedpur has been the one hosting whenever Bihar/Jharkhand were allotted a game. It was the back-up provided by the Tatas who had built the necessary infrastructure. And now its Dhoni's immense popularity and success which has brought the sponsors flocking to Ranchi, his home town. And Ranchi which hardly hosted Ranji games certainly wouldn't have been hosting an international one.

And it is not just the paying public in Ranchi who have benefited from Dhoni's success. The benefits have started moving down to Jharkhand cricket all around. Before Dhoni made his international debut, there were very few cricketers from Bihar (Jharkhand hadn't been created then) who had made it to the national team but did not have much success. Ramesh Saxena, Subroto Banerjee, Saba Karim did make it to the Indian team but hardly made much of an impact. Saba Karim had to shift to Bengal before getting an India call. However an unfortunate eye injury cut short his career.

Now lets look at the post-Dhoni era in Jharkhand cricket. Saurabh Tiwary and Varun Aaron have made their India debuts. Though currently neither of them is in the team due to form and injury issues. If all are available  currently Jharkhand can field three internationals in their playing XI. Now thats something which would have been considered almost unthinkable even ten years ago. No wonder the team reached the Ranji knockouts. 

As for the home game, haven't seen so much fanfare even for the 2011 world cup final. After vall, how many stadiums get an opening ceremony? 40000 noisy fans were there to cheer for their boy. Amongst them were at least 15000 with whom Dhoni must have played cricket with (his words, not mine). The result seemed incidental. They hadn't come to watch just India play. They had come to watch Dhoni. And their boy certainly didn't disappoint them

Certainly Dhoni has already built his legacy. This game was the perfect celebration.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ranji Trophy 2012-13: The Jharkhand Campaign

Match Summary: Jharkhand (401 & 33/0) drew with Punjab  (699/3d)
Punjab qualify to semi-finals on 1st innings lead basis.

On a flat track in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand were heavily outbatted by the Harbhajan Singh led Punjab team. Jharkhand's 1st innings was held up by Nemat & Jaggi's centuries while Akhash Verma & Saurabh Tiwary failed to replicate their earlier form and went out cheaply. In reply the Jharkhand attack was toothless in front of the Punjab batsmen with Taruwar Kohli leading the way with an unbeaten triple century. (Incidentally I have witnessed VVS Laxman scoring a triple on this very ground). With Punjab having secured a conclusive lead, the rest of the match meandered into a draw.

With this the Jharkhand campaign has come to an end. To reach the quarter-finals without any big names would be a tremendous achievement, specially given last year's performances. Group C was the easier of the 3 groups but qualification certainly wasn't given the topsy-turvy season that Jharkhand had. Next season they will be up against the big boys having been promoted. Hopefully the team will build on the success of this season.

Well Done Shahbaz Nadeem & company. It was really satisfying following your innings in this Ranji season. Also Tarak Sinha, the coach is now doing wonders with the Jharkhand team after taking Rajasthan to 2 Ranji titles

Season Stats
Top Batsmen 
1. Saurabh Tiwary - 602 runs @46.31 including 2 centuries 
2. Ishank Jaggi - 465 runs @42.27 with one century
3. Rameez Nemat - 419 runs @34.92 with one century

Top Bowlers
1. Shahbaz Nadeem - 42 wickets @25.98 
2. SS Rao - 26 wickets @24.65
3. Sunny Gupta - 25 wickets @31.48

Special mention must be made of newcomer Ajay Yadav who took 23 wickets including 2 ten-wicket match hauls. From cattle-grazer to playing a leading role in a couple of Jharkhand victories. This is a truly inspiring story.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand reach Quarter-finals

Match Summary: Services (185 & 152) lost to Jharkhand (120 & 219/5) by 5 wickets
Points: Jharkhand 6, Services 0

This was the match. Jharkhand had to win against the league toppers to have a chance to reach the knock-outs. And they won it with some minor hiccups. With other results also going their way, Jharkhand took the second place in Group C and booked their knock-outs spot.

In the first innings, they knocked out Services early with Ajay Yadav picking up 5 wickets. In reply Jharkhand started strongly but the brittle batting order collapsed again and handed a big lead to Services. At this juncture, with Saurabh Tiwary also injured, a win became increasingly unlikely. But they recovered well to knock out Services for 152, though they had them in even deeper trouble at one stage.  Once again Yadav was the pick of the bowlers picking 6 wickets. A 4th innings target of 218 was big specially given the match context. But the openers Akash Verma & rameez Nemat knocked off most of the target in 150+ opening stand. A few quick wickets fell but Jaggi & Tiwary saw them through.

It has been a topsy-turvy season. Beginning and ending with wins and some indifferent performances in-between. The batting has been specially brittle with  only Saurabh Tiwary and to a certain extent Akash Verma consistently amongst the runs. Bowling has been the more reliable department with Nadeem, Sunny Gupta, SS Rao and newcomer Ajay Yadav all chipping in.

It was the perfect new year gift for the Jharkhand cricket fan. Given that Dhoni & Aaron were missing throughout the season makes the achievement even more commendable.

Now for the Qaurter-finals against Punjab to be played at home in Jamshedpur beginning January 6th. Wishing the team all the very best

Season Stats
Lead run-scorer: Saurabh Tiwary - 601 runs @50.08
Most Wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem - 40 @22.45