January 13, 2002

India A humble Seniors side at Bangalore

It was an anticlimax to beat all anticlimaxes. The final of the Hero Honda NKP Salve Challenger Trophy 2002 saw India 'A' beat India Seniors by eight wickets at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Sourav Ganguly, hard as he tried, could not get out of the batting slump that has laid him low for over six months now. The Indian skipper could only watch in dismay as India 'A,' inspired by an all-round display, swamped the senior team.

On winning the toss and electing to bat, Ganguly would have never thought it likely that his team would be skittled out for a mere 154 in 35.5 overs. It was not brilliant bowling that swept India's first-choice team off the deck. It was the batting that let things down.

In a shuffled batting order, Shiv Sunder Das (4) and Jacob Martin (1) fell before 10 runs were on the board. Under pressure in the floodlit game, the seniors simply crumbled, with only Hemang Badani offering any resistance. Ideally suited to the situation, the level-headed Tamil Nadu southpaw made 52 when everyone around him failed.

Ajit Agarkar (2/30) is sure to make a comeback to the Indian side, and Murali Kartik (3/29) has done his chances no harm either.

But it was not just the bowling of India A that came to the fore. The little-known Sangram Singh, who began his career as a medium pacer, showcased his aggressive batting ability in fine style, top scoring with 75 (78 balls, 10 fours, one six) and leading the 'A' team to a famous victory. VVS Laxman (29 not out) and Rohan Gavaskar (18 not out) saw India 'A' home with 18 overs to spare.

This is an edition of the Challenger Trophy that will be remembered for a long time. If not for the crashing ton from Virender Sehwag or the classical knock from Dinesh Mongia or the five-fer from Sarandeep Singh, it will be for the result - when the India Seniors team, filled choc-a-bloc with big names, was humbled.