Shahbaz Nadeem does not like losing a toss. In the previous Ranji Trophy season, the Jharkhand captain won six out of nine tosses before his team lost out to Punjab on the first-innings lead in the quarter-finals. But on Monday, Nadeem lost the most important toss, one which would have taken East Zone to the Duleep Trophy final had he won it.
A wet outfield in Kochi had erased all optimism of any play on the extra fifth day of the semi-final, forcing the match referee V Narayan Kutty to walk to the pair of Harbhajan Singh and Nadeem, the North Zone and East captains, to explain the rule that the winner would be determined by the toss of a coin. Till then Harbhajan was joking with Nadeem and the other East players. But now Nadeem was slightly anxious.
He had already lost the toss on day one to Harbhajan, who had elected to bat. Nearly two of the first four days of the match were washed out but North amassed 591 for 8 with four of their batsmen making hundreds. Apart from the fraught weather Nadeem and his team had endured 194 overs on the field. When it was their turn to bat, East managed 32 for 1 in 14 overs before the umpires called the match off.
"Today I was actually pretty confident since I had lost the toss before the match started. So I thought may be this one I would win," Nadeem said. It was the first time players on both sides had experienced a match being decided by the toss of a coin. Unfortunately for Nadeem and East, Harbhajan called "heads", which proved correct. North will now play South Zone in the final, which starts on October 17, again in Kochi.
Nadeem said he had nothing against the rules but would've liked to have taken advantage of a batting-friendly pitch. "It was a very flat wicket. We wanted to go and play because we had fielded for 195-odd overs, so we thought we would make them field for at least 150 overs. We have a very long batting line-up so we were confident if we had enough time. But we could not do anything much since the conditions were really wet.
"It was slightly disappointing since it was the semi-finals of the Duleep Trophy. Our team bats till No 9 including seven specialist batsmen and a couple of allrounders. Although we lost one wicket our batsmen have been in good form and we were confident. But what can we do? If it was decided by skills of players (then it would have been different) but if it is decided this way then what can we do."
The previous first-class match decided on the toss of a coin was the 2004-05 Ranji Trophy Plate Group semi-final when Services advanced against Himachal Pradesh. Only 27 overs were possible in Himachal's first-innings before the match was abandoned due to rain.