Parida century gives Rajasthan the lead
Rajasthan 306 for 6 (Parida 108, Bist 85, Pandey 4-65) lead Madhya Pradesh 256 (Bundela 53, Rameez 54, Rituraj 4-68, Pankaj 4-63) by 50 runs
Rashmi Parida has been playing domestic cricket since the mid-1990s and during that time he has grown used to being the unsung hero. Whether for his home team Orissa or for the adopted Rajasthan, Parida's contributions in the middle order have usually been overshadowed by those of his team-mates.
When Parida was holding one end up for Orissa for 15 seasons, he was playing second fiddle to the likes of Pravanjan Mullick and SS Das. And when he joined Rajasthan as a professional, his two professional colleagues Aakash Chopra and skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar walked away with much of the credit for their rags-to-riches story in the last two seasons.
One of the few times Parida got his due was during the 2010-11 final, when his 56 and 89 earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. But even though he doesn't make headlines as much he should, Parida has been Rajasthan's go-to man over the last three years. And he did his reputation no harm by scoring his 16th first-class century on the second day of Rajasthan's Group A match against Madhya Pradesh at the KL Saini stadium in Jaipur.
With Chopra having ended his association with Rajasthan after two years, and the captain Kanitkar missing the game because of a calf strain, it was up to Parida to help Rajasthan overhaul MP's first innings total of 256 and keep them in the hunt for a much-needed outright victory. Along with contributions from his team-mates, especially Robin Bist who made 85, Parida did his job to near-perfection. He was dismissed for 108 in the penultimate over of the day, and Rajasthan finished on 306 for 6, ahead by 50 runs.
After Vineet Saxena and Robin Bist had begun Rajasthan's recovery from 7 for 1, the stand-in captain Saxena was trapped lbw by Ishwar Pandey, who was the pick of the MP bowlers, around an hour before lunch. Two balls later Ashok Menaria fished at one that was pitched slightly outside off to offer a regulation catch to wicketkeeper Naman Ojha.
At 87 for 3, Parida joined his Air India junior Bist. With a rookie batsman, a wicketkeeper and a long tail to follow, Rajasthan needed significant contributions from both batsmen, and they delivered.
"The manner in which Paddy bhai [Parida] started off took all the pressure off me. He bats with such ease that it just makes you feel how easy batting is," Bist said. "He bats in a manner like, ball ko chot na lag jaaye [the ball shouldn't get hurt]."
Even after Bist was caught down the leg side off Anand Rajan, Parida continued to flourish. Puneet Yadav was getting a rare outing due to Kanitkar's injury and Rajasthan were still 85 runs adrift of the lead. Parida not only gave his young partner confidence but also took pressure off him by going after the bowlers a bit. After playing some fluent cuts, Yadav was dismissed against the run of play when Anand Singh caught at well-timed flick at forward short leg.
Though his partners kept changing, Parida continued towards a deserving century. And when he finally got there, with a push to mid-off for a single, Parida was cheered loudly and given a standing ovation by his team-mates. He had failed to score one last season, despite having scored more than 500 runs. "The fact that I couldn't score a century last season was playing on my mind all along," he said. "It's good that the monkey is off the back early in the season."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo