Medium pacers, fairytales and scheduling botch-ups
It was the season when medium pacers ruled and tall scores were rare; Punjab rose while Mumbai slipped. Off the field there was drama, too, as the board's scheduling went haywire. At the end of the 2004-05 domestic season, we take a look back at what changed, and what didn't.
Fairytale of the season
Railways' odyssey to the Ranji Trophy summit. With just four points from their first five games, a patchy batting line-up and a low confidence, Railways were staring down the barrel of relegation. But they surprised everyone - not least themselves - to emerge triumphant.
Star of the season
Without a shadow of a doubt, Jai Prakash Yadav. He made the season his own with 56 wickets, 629 runs and two titles: the Duleep Trophy for Central Zone and the Ranji Trophy for Railways. For the previous ten years, Yadav had been a useful batsman who chipped in with the ball. This season, however, he defied crises, he turned matches and he ultimately dominated like no other allrounder in recent memory.
Most improved team
With a bunch of youngsters, a Pakistani coach, and a new cladding of steel, Punjab changed from a team who hovered around the semi-finals to one which was in serious contention for the title. They banked on pace to ease through the league stages, and then relied on the experience of Pankaj Dharmani and Gagandeep Singh to stun Mumbai at the Wankhede in the semi-final, and they fought back superbly on the first four days of the final. They may have missed out on the title, but with similar efforts next year, it won't be too long before they have their name on the trophy.
Trend of the season
Medium pacers accounted for eight of the top ten wicket-takers in the season, with batsmen coming unstuck on lively pitches. High scoring games were rare and only five batsmen managed to score double-hundreds. Click here for more.
Most promising youngster
Suresh Raina, 18, thumped the ball with audacity and produced some fantastic knocks in the Deodhar Trophy and the Ranji one-day tournament. In the four-day version, a century eluded him but Uttar Pradesh regularly rode on his half-centuries. Experienced bowlers, many of whom who were taken apart, compared him to a young Yuvraj Singh. Another consistent season and Raina could be joining Yuvraj in the Indian side.
Two outstanding rescue acts
VVS Laxman boosting Hyderabad to the semis with two talismanic knocks and Sourav Ganguly getting Bengal out of the relegation jail in their crucial final league game.
Match of the season
The Duleep Trophy game between West Zone and South Zone at Hyderabad when nearly 20000 people watched a star-packed contest. Anil Kumble bowled Sachin Tendulkar with a faster one, Zaheer Khan undid VVS Laxman as a fantastic contest was played out on a sporting pitch. West eventually turned a tricky target into a cruise in what turned out to be a great advertisement for the domestic game.
Bizarre sudden death of the year
When the Plate Group semi-final between Services and Himachal Pradesh was rained off and the result was decided on the toss of a coin. Himachal, who hadn't lost a game all season, were thwarted by a cruel turn of fate.
Shocker of the season
BCCI's annual fiasco of shifting venues at the blink of an eye. The Duleep Trophy game between East and Central was shifted from Bikaner to Gwalior. The West v South game was moved from Kanpur to Meerut before finally being played in Hyderabad since "neither the wicket nor the ground were up to standard" at Meerut. Bangladesh Cricket Board XI, the sixth team in the competition, had to deal with even more sloppiness: not only was their game against Central moved from Jaipur to Delhi but they also learnt that a friendly game had been played on the pitch just two days before the start of their match. It was shambolic, shocking ... and so BCCI.
Most worthless tournament of the season
The Ranji one-day knock-out tournament in Mumbai. India were nearing the end of their international series against Pakistan and weren't going to play for another four months; the selectors were present only for the finals and most of the players were jaded at the end of a gruelling season. There was no incentive to perform and, fittingly, no trophy at the end of it all for two teams who played out a dramatic match that finished in a tie.
The inspired one-off comeback
Utpal Chatterjee decided to come back for Bengal's last game of the league phase and in doing so he picked up his 500th first-class wicket. More crucially, he hung around for one-and-a-half hours amid nerve-wracking tension and played his part in Bengal gaining a slender first-innings lead to escape relegation.
Quote of the season
"Some baby is crying somewhere"
Ajay Jadeja's reaction when asked about Amay Khurisiya's complaint about the Delhi players sledging against Madhya Pradesh.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo