Captains lead the way in Ranji one-dayers
Teams from all over the country contested in five different one-day tournaments in early January. The winners of the five different zones would compete in the knock-out tournament in Kolkata. The captains of all the winning teams had a great time and three of them - Devang Gandhi, Sairaj Bahutule and Gagan Khoda - were rewarded by being chosen to lead their zone in the Deodhar Trophy.
Gandhi's run-glut ensured that Bengal trampled over all the other teams in the East Zone competition at Jamshedpur. He amassed scores of 125, 151 and 55 in three of the four matches. The second of those scores was a 100-ball sizzler against Assam which helped his team finish on a colossal 397. Nikhil Haldipur, his Bengal team-mate, also had a great tournament with two hundreds. Sanjib Sanyal, the medium-pacer, snapped up nine wickets, and his 4 for 21 caused Orissa to crumble for a meagre score.
Tamil Nadu edged out Kerala in the third match of the South Zone tournament, and that eight-run win proved vital in the final analysis when both teams finished on equal points. Karnataka began impressively in the first two games, but the tide turned when they went down to Kerala in a last-over finish. Kerala continued to prevail in tense finishes, which helped them close in on the top spot. Yet, with Somasetty Suresh leading the way with a string of consistent scores, Tamil Nadu, the hosts, deservedly retained the Subbiah Pillai Trophy.
Heavy fog and poor visibility affected many of the matches in the North zone tournament at Delhi. Yet, Mithun Manhas, mind unclouded, top-scored in four of the five games and helped Delhi finish undefeated. In the all-important clash with Punjab, Delhi lost both their openers early in pursuit of 207, before Manhas and Vijay Dahiya shared a 184-run unbroken stand. That was Punjab's only blemish, and though they picked up four bonus points, Delhi were ultimately victorious.
Rajasthan triumphed in the Central zone tournament held in Jaipur - Khoda leading the way with an average of 69. They overcame Railways and Madhya Pradesh, strong teams both, with consummate ease. Railways, despite possessing considerable batting strength, put on a listless show and passed a score of 200 only once.
Unlike the other captains, Bahutule didn't marshal his troops by wielding the bat, but with his bowling: his economical spells were vital in all of Mumbai's victories. The pick of the lot was the 4 for 36 that restricted Gujarat at Rajkot. Vinod Kambli and Nishit Shetty hit match-winning hundreds, while Vinayak Mane helped them romp home in the other two matches with scores of 98 and 85.