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Siddhartha Talya in Mumbai
February 10, 2013
Abhishek Nayar rued his and Rohit Sharma's failure with the bat in the first innings while looking back at Mumbai conceding a lead that ultimately sealed the title for Rest of India. Mumbai, who haven't won the Irani Cup since 1997-98, were bowled out for 409 while chasing Rest of India's 526 despite an unbeaten century from Sachin Tendulkar; Nayar was caught at slip for 1, and Rohit was dismissed to a poor shot for a duck.
"It was important for one of Rohit or me to stay and get those runs, but we couldn't," Nayar told reporters at the end of the match. "You can blame the shot, you can blame whatever you want to, but I feel personally we should have been there and got the team through. It was our responsibility, but unfortunately we didn't deliver."
Nayar got an edge while playing across the line to Abhimanyu Mithun, Rohit was caught after top-edging an attempted slog-sweep and the last three wickets were unable to support Tendulkar after he had revived Mumbai's hopes by putting together a century stand for the seventh wicket with Ankeet Chavan. "Our batting has been our forte, with Rohit and me not getting runs that put added pressure on us. If one of us had put our hands up and done something with Sachin, we could have been on the winning side. It's just that key players in the game haven't really delivered and the responsibility has to be taken by us."
Mumbai were without Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar for this match - both ruled out due to injuries - and Dhawal Kulkarni led an inexperienced attack. "Shardul [Thakur] and Javed [Khan] have played three or four games this season, even Vishal's [Dabholkar] played his fourth so we have a bit of inexperience. We are up against guys who are the best in their teams. So it's been a learning experience for the guys."
Mumbai did have a chance to fight back in the second innings after picking up three wickets relatively early on the fourth day and Abhishek Nayar troubling Manoj Tiwary, who he has dismissed several times, before lunch. However, Nayar took himself out of the attack after the break and had his spinners - Dabholkar and Chavan - bowl 52 out of the day's remaining 60 overs, and Rest of India dealt with them comfortably. "At that point, I had already bowled eight overs into the spell and sometimes it takes a toll on your body," Nayar said. "The bulk of the bowling was done by the fast bowlers [in the first innings], so at some point the spinners had to put their hand up and bowl for us. At that point, the ball was swinging a lot and I thought I should have come on to bowl but I felt, at the time, the spinners should have done the job for us."
Nayar said he was disappointed that Wasim Jaffer, who had a prolific season, was not picked for the Tests against Australia. "He's by far one of the best batsmen in India. It is disappointing that he's not in the team, but like I said, he just has to do what is in his hands, and keep getting runs. Hopefully the time will come when he gets his opportunity."
Harbhajan Singh, the Rest of India captain, said he was proud of his team for having won the title, though he felt winning the game outright would have been difficult even if he had declared overnight - Rest of India batted on the fifth morning and gave Mumbai 63 overs to chase 507. "We saw the wicket, it wasn't the kind where it was easy for bowlers to take those ten wickets. This is the kind of a match, where you know that if you take the first-innings lead, you will win the game.
"Our fast bowlers had bowled quite a lot in the first innings, and by looking at the game, we saw their fast bowlers also struggled to take wickets. I just wanted to make sure we'll declare whenever we feel we'd like to bowl and that's what we did."
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Talya
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Pataudi Jr caught a young English fan's fancy for his princely ways and his heroic batting