Ranji Trophy, 7th round, 2007-08 December 29, 2007

The immovable object and an uncelebrated hundred

Gautam Gambhir dances down the track during his innings of 84 against Tamil Nadu on the same day that India started their first Test in Melbourne © Cricinfo Ltd

Injured? What injured?
Gautam Gambhir, widely regarded as the next best opening option outside the Indian team, missed out to Delhi team-mate Virender Sehwag because "he was injured" and wouldn't be fit to play. But there he was on Christmas day, taking the field against Tamil Nadu in Chennai and on the Boxing Day scoring a stroke-filled 84 to take Delhi through to a spot in the semi-final. Wonder if the Delhi support staff is so much better than India's.

Spending quality time in the middle
Saurashtra went into their last league needing to just play out a draw for a semi-final spot. The talks had been talked, Amol Muzumdar said the pressure will be on Saurashtra and it would be interesting how they would defend the lead.

Turned out Saurashtra had a batsman who would take the phrase "getting stuck into the bowling" to a whole new level. Shitanshu Kotak, the artist famously known as Fevicol, brought his lock, stock and barrel to the Wankhede wicket and stayed there for more than two days to bat Mumbai out of the Ranji Trophy.

During his 796-minute stay at the wicket, he changed shirts 10 times, negotiated three new balls, faced 514 deliveries, scored 168 runs, and drank 18 litres of health drink, according to the Indian Express. Kotak's was the sixth-longest innings in first-class cricket, after Rajiv Nayyar (1015 minutes), Hanif Mohammad (970), Gary Kirsten (878), Sanath Jayasuriya (799), and Leonard Hutton (797). It wasn't surprising in the least that he stayed unbeaten at the end of the innings and it was Sandip Maniar who was the last man out after he had partnered Kotak for 73 minutes. Mumbai must thank God for these little mercies.

Munaf the missing
Last checked Munaf Patel had a back spasm that ruled him out of the Bangalore Test. Two weeks before that he was making another comeback to the Indian side, dodgy fitness history and all. Yet, in a poor reflection on India's fast bowling resources, India wanted him in Australia by the Perth Test. For that he would have to prove his fitness by playing the Karnataka-Maharashtra Ranji match in Ratnagiri, but Munaf provided the twist there. According to PTI, Munaf could not be contacted by either BCCI or Maharashtra Cricket Association and gave the match a miss.

Bye, bye Bengal
The former captains blamed the coach, the coach blamed the batsmen, the selectors expressed helplessness for want of talent, Paras Mhambrey, their former coach, generally felt bad, and Arun Lal felt deeply hurt by the plight of the Bengal team. Runners-up for two years running, Bengal took the big plunge to the Plate League when they lost to Andhra at the Eden Gardens, failing to reach 200 in the last five innings they have played.

Arup Bhattacharya, the chief selector, was simplistic in his post-mortem: "At this point, I don't see a single player who can be picked for the state team. I request you guys to give me some. If you can, I will give you a treat."

Mhambrey presented the impact of this relegation best: "I feel bad for the talented players like Manoj Tiwary and Ranadeb Bose who are knocking on the India doors. In the Plate [League], they really have to work hard to come up."

Hundred not out and not celebrating
This was not a good week for players playing their 100th matches. Sourav Ganguly's India got hammered at the MCG. Back home, at the Wankhede Stadium, played his 100th Ranji game. Muzumdar became the 12th player to achieve the feat, six of them needing more than one teams to reach the mark. Muzumdar, a proud Mumbai player, is obviously a part of the other half dozen. Coming at the beloved home ground - it would he his last match here for two years as the Wankhede goes into renovation after this season - this match was special, and he scored a big hundred, but was a sad man at the end of it all. "This is one of my lowest moments," Muzumdar told the Times of India after Mumbai were knocked out of the Ranji Trophy.

Welcome to the big league
Gujarat and Railways took different routes to an entry into the Super League, replacing Himachal Pradesh and Bengal. Gujarat beat Madhya Pradesh outright inside four days at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi, while Railways managed a 45-run first-innings lead over Kerala in Nagpur and then denied Kerala's best efforts to force a result.

"Bore kiya, lekin kaam to hua na? (I bored you, but I got the job done, right?)" No-one can argue with Kotak on that.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo