We need to bat Mumbai out of the game - Kanitkar
They called him a chakka (eunuch), sledged him and tried to bowl a tight line but Mumbai couldn't remove Vineet Saxena today. Saxena, who was unbeaten on 111, later said his mistakes in previous close battles against Mumbai egged him on during the second day of the Ranji Trophy quarter-final in Jaipur. Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the Rajasthan captain, batting on 96, stressed the game wasn't over yet and that Rajasthan needed to bat Mumbai out of the game on the third day.
"We came close to beating them in 2003 and 2007 but we failed," Saxena said. "In 2003, we needed 12 runs, with three wickets intact, to take the vital first-innings lead but we collapsed (Rajasthan were 230 for 7 but were bowled out for 230). In 2007, chasing 384 to win, we needed around 135 runs from about 35 overs, with seven wickets in hand, but we lost by two runs. I had hit a hundred then but had played a loose shot to get out. I was determined not to repeat that mistake today. I will give my best to stretch my innings as long as possible tomorrow."
Saxena and Kanitkar added 206 runs in 84 overs to grind out Mumbai. "We just told each other that we shall not throw our wickets," Saxena said. "We just wanted to keep out the good deliveries and wait for the bad balls. Patience was our key today." There was a lot of chirping from the Mumbai fielders but they couldn't break Saxena's focus. "One player called me chakka too," Saxena said with a chuckle. "I was doubly determined and just focussed on the job on the hand."
Aakash Chopra, who was out for 19 to a dubious lbw decision, put Saxena's effort in the right context. "It's one thing when professionals like Kanitkar or I score but for someone like Saxena to score a hundred in a pressure quarter-final against Mumbai, it means a lot to him, to his team and the local cricketers. The innings was of great importance. Saxena is not someone who is a strokemaker; his forte is patience and he is someone who is well aware of his own game. He gritted it out there brilliantly."
Chopra said the first session was the most crucial phase of play. "Mumbai bowled well in that session and kept it really tight. Only 60 runs came but it was fascinating to watch how Saxena and Kanitkar applied themselves."
Kanitkar didn't want his team-mates to get complacent. "You can't get take anything for granted right now. There are still two days to go. We have to ensure that we keep batting and don't allow Mumbai the time to get back into the game." Most domestic teams are wary of Mumbai's reputation to script jailbreaks and Rajasthan, too, were understandably cautious.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo