Services v UP, Ranji Trophy Quarter-Final, 2nd day January 7, 2013

Paliwal, Chatterjee symbolise Services' resolve

An Air Force man and a would-be Sergeant took contrasting routes to show how much the Ranji knockouts matter to the men in uniform

"We are soldiers first, players later… A soldier remains a soldier, till he is no more." These words from Wing Commander Deepak Bhaskar, the Services manager, sum up the attitude of the side that comprises cricketers from the Indian armed forces.

When you hear these words, you begin to appreciate why Services captain Soumik Chatterjee, barely able to walk with a badly injured knee, dragged himself to the middle at No. 11 despite his team already leading Uttar Pradesh by 129 on a difficult pitch. You begin to appreciate why Chatterjee risked doing further damage to the severe clotting on his knee, and was bitterly disappointed when he lasted one ball. You begin to appreciate how much a rare Ranji quarter-final appearance means to Chatterjee's team, which still values and respects domestic first-class cricket in this age of IPL contracts.

Chatterjee's struggle to reach the pitch moved the UP players enough for a few of them to walk up and pat him on the back. His struggle to reach the dressing room moved UP coach Venkatesh Prasad enough for him to walk up, take Chatterjee's bat in one hand and support the Services captain with the other. Like a tough senior officer, though, Bhaskar was nowhere to be seen near Chatterjee at that time.

"Even if he could have scored 10 runs, it could have made a difference to the game," Bhaskar said later of Chatterjee's decision. "It is a big match, a Ranji quarter-final. If we fail here, it means that all the efforts we put in through the season, through the first eight matches, would be in vain."

While Chatterjee's has to be one of the most heroic one-ball innings in the game, young Rajat Paliwal, in only his second season, did his best to see that Services' efforts in topping Group C weren't in vain with an aggressive unbeaten 112 off 133 deliveries.

Paliwal, who hails from Sonepat in Haryana, joined the Air Force in early 2011 and debuted for Services in 2011-12, averaging 23.44 in five games. He had to later go through the rigorous military training all Services recruits have to, and has so far made 741 runs this season with four centuries at an average of 82.33.

Paliwal's gloves were battered today by the UP fast bowlers, who kept up their short ball barrage throughout the morning session. A huge, bulging blister on the tip of his right forefinger did not deter Paliwal from hooking and pulling with total control on his way to his century, which could have yet taken the game away from UP.

Paliwal, who will be promoted to a Sergeant soon, said that with the pitch providing help to the fast bowlers, there was little point in hanging around and defending, so he decided to attack. At no point was he reckless, though.

A finely balanced hundred and a brave first-ball duck. Paliwal and Chatterjee took contrasting routes to show how much the Ranji knockouts matter to the men in uniform.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    Hey guys my good wishes to all of you. Now is the herculean task ahead to play against formidable Mumbai with Sachin Tendulkar around.. I am sure how jubilant u guys must be. Would like to see a special innings from Soumya Ranjan Swain. Chats you rock man. You guys have definitely shown the metal u possess. Indeed you all are soldiers before players. Keep up the spirit. Looking forward to see Services in final.

    An Airwarrior...

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    All the Best Services :-) Even if you don't win it (Ranji Trophy) You are already a winner

  • Dummy4 on January 9, 2013, 3:37 GMT

    Take a bow Team Services! At a time when India exhibits such a poor fighting spirit, this team has set an example.

  • ramesh on January 8, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    Mr writer you have forget to mention name of suraj yadav who has taken seven wickets in second inning of U.P. Its too big thing to be ignored. I think you have personal problem with name or something else. Should suraj add sharma ,tiwari or Kar title to get noticed for all hard work done!

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2013, 14:51 GMT

    @Anujit KM and Constro-- Air Commodore Bal Dani played a test against Pakistan. He opened with Lala Amarnath, who was double his age. Though he joined the Air Force after the test.

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2013, 14:44 GMT

    well done services all the best wishes for semifinals wish it is telecast live

  • Akshay on January 8, 2013, 14:28 GMT

    Services Batsman Yashpal Singh averages 53 in FC cricket with almost 6000 runs. He has never featured even in India A teams. Its time national selectors have a look at these unsung heroes !

  • Anil on January 8, 2013, 14:11 GMT

    AnujitKM, my memory's a little fuzzy but I think Vasant Ranjane from Services played Test cricket. I could well be wrong, though.

  • Aditya on January 8, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    This is in stark contrast to the brash attitude displayed by 'talented' young players in IPL and even 'legends' in Big Bash. This gentlemanly team comprising of uncompromising and proud soldiers are worthy of everyone's respect! Felt extremely proud to be an Indian after reading this article - really pleasantly surprised to know such values and fighting spirit still exist in modern cricket. UP players and coach showing respect to such a worthy opposition is heartwarming. This is cricket!

  • Dummy4 on January 8, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    Great spirit.. Great commitment. Wish all players show the same level of commitment when they play for their country / state / team and not only for their franchise.