Ranji Trophy 5th round December 5, 2008

Shadow of terror, and the communication gap

Cricinfo staff
Highlights of the fifth round of the Ranji Trophy's Super League and Plate matches

Brothers in destruction: Maharashtra paid for the Pathans' reunion in the Ranji Trophy © AFP

Too moved, and too honest
Mahesh Rawat, the Railways and Rajasthan Royals wicketkeeper, had landed in Mumbai for the Champions League the night terror struck the city. He declined to go to the hotel, spent the night at the airport, and took the first flight back. Two days later, he was training for the Ranji match against Uttar Pradesh. At a time when everybody questioned the relevance of cricket, but nobody spoke openly of it, Rawat had different views. "If I was in any position of authority, I would've stopped this match from happening," Rawat told the Indian Express. "It's been over 48 hours and Mumbai is still burning. How can we, as Indians, concentrate on playing, when one of the biggest tragedies is being played live on TV even as we speak?"

He's injured, he's not
Plantular faciatis. Forget the pronunciation - it is a type of a heel injury, the kind that was supposed to have kept VVS Laxman out of Hyderabad's game against Mumbai. If Kanwaljit Singh, Hyderabad's coach, and Vijay Bharatiya, the physiotherapist, are to be believed, that is. Apparently Laxman had aggravated the injury during the game against Rajasthan, where he cracked 224; Kanwaljit also talked about how Laxman had used a runner during the final leg of his long innings. Sounds fairly straight, but for the small matter of Laxman's not agreeing to these facts.

Miffed at media reports, he called a few journalists for an explanation of what they had reported. And lo and behold, the next day Kanwaljit and Bharatiya apparently didn't know of any such injury or comments made. The rule of the thumb is, when in hot soup, say you were misquoted.

Laxman, meanwhile, explained the reason for him missing the game: "I had written to the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) about my unavailability for the match as I wanted to be with my wife during the delivery of my second child. I had missed the birth of my first one, and hence wanted to be with the family, particularly because it turned out to be a premature delivery.''

All in the family
If you have UP playing Railways at the Karnail Singh Stadium, it all gets a bit mixed up. Take the case of Mohammad Kaif's father, Mohammad Tarif, who is an absolute legend at the Karnail Singh Stadium. Tarif moved to Railways from UP in the intial stages of his career. Then there's Aamir Khan, the UP wicketkeeper who works for Railways. And you have Karan Sharma, the Railways middle-order batsman and legspinner, who is from Meerut, and played Under-14s for UP. All you need to do is to throw in a few Railways fan, who are from UP, and mixed loyalties are not far away.

Bose's double
With a devastating five-wicket haul in his first spell in the Plate League Group B match against Tripura, Ranadeb Bose became the 84th man to have taken 200 wickets in the Ranji Trophy. It is a spin-dominated club, with the most wickets taken by a pace bowler being Madan Lal's 352. Madan has 11 spinners leading him and Rajinder Goel's 637 wickets look almost untouchable.

"I owe this success to my coach Gopal Bose, and my father," Bose told the Kolkata-based Telegraph. "I want to continue playing… My job is to take wickets, and I'd love to go on doing that."

Fernando? Absent
Dilhara Fernando, the Sri Lankan fast bowler, has been ruled out of Baroda's Ranji Trophy campaign for this season because of an injured ankle. Fernando was set to play for Baroda following Sri Lanka's tour of Zimbabwe, but now the Baroda will have to find a replacement. Their selection problems increase with Munaf Patel's inclusion in the Indian squad for the Tests against England. "They [selectors] will think over combination of team in next two days," Bardoa Cricket Association chairman Atul Bedade told Sri Lanka's Island newspaper. "They have to think over replacement for Munaf Patel." With only one win from four games, Baroda are currently placed fifth in their Super League group, but have a match in hand.

What's up with the Karnail Stadium?
It is situated in one of the busiest localities, but once you get there it's pretty peaceful inside. Which makes it quite surprising that people lose their cool so easily at the Karnail Singh Stadium. Two weeks ago it was Irfan Pathan flinging a ball dangerously towards Sanjay Bangar's head, after having fielded it in his follow-through. That earned him a 100% match-fee fine.

Now, the Railways-UP game was full of incident too, though only two walked away with 50% match-fee fines this time: RP Singh and Murali Kartik for showing dissent to an umpire's decision. Wonder whether the slow, lifeless pitch had something to do with it. And if that is the case, Railways' opponents stand no chance, as the home team have in their ranks two of the broadest bats and most patient heads, those of Yere Goud and Bangar. The good news is, they are yet to put together a big partnership at the Karnail Singh Stadium this year.

Surprise surprise
A day before their postponed match against Hyderabad, Mumbai got a surprise visitor to their nets: none other than Mumbai's most famous son, Sachin Tendulkar. He was there for his indoor training session when he decided to surprise his Mumbai mates.

"I did not expect him to be here. Obviously, his presence is an inspiration to our players," Wasim Jaffer, Mumbai's captain, said. "If the Test series is not taking place I would speak to both Sachin and Zaheer [Khan] to play the game against Punjab [later this month]. In fact, it will be good for Indian cricket if all the players are available to play in Ranji Trophy. It will make it more interesting."

Not that Mumbai missed the two when playing Hyderabad, whom they beat by an innings and 108 runs.

Brother power
Baroda haven't really had the Pathan power this year. First Yusuf was taken away for national duty, and then Irfan too. Result: three matches, three draws, five points. But for their fourth match, they got both of them back, an upshot of the cancellation of the England one-dayers following the attack on Mumbai.

And what a difference they made. Irfan's 5 for 54 bowled Maharashtra for 228. Then the brothers scored fifties to take Baroda to a 77-run lead. The game wasn't over yet, as both of them took a wicket each in the second innings, and Maharashtra set them 227. Soon they were 75 for 5, bringing together the brothers of destruction again. Yusuf smashed 100 off 109 balls, Irfan scored an unbeaten 50, and Baroda kept themselves alive in the Ranji Trophy.

Shane Warne's boys' corner
Rawat and Yusuf kept the Rajasthan Royals flag flying high. In the first innings, against Railways, Rawat scored 39, and in partnership with Goud, took them just past the follow-on target. Railways hadn't yet assured themselves of a point from the match. In the second innings, they were 77 for 7, chasing 297 with close to two sessions still left in the game. Out walked Rawat, suffering from viral fever, with his concerned father in the stands. Rawat's partnership with Bangar lasted 40 overs, and they saved the match and earned a point for Railways.