When a team sets the opposition a target of 765 in a maximum of 169 overs in order to attain the first-innings lead, the game is as good as killed once the chasing side doesn't lose early wickets. Maharashtra's weird tactics in their Ranji Trophy season opener against Uttar Pradesh in Pune have drawn the ire of opposition captain Suresh Raina, who minced no words in criticising Dermot Reeve, the former England allrounder and newly-appointed Maharashtra coach.
"They have a foreign coach and he needs to teach good things to youngsters," Raina said after UP finished the penultimate day on 287 for 1 in reply to Maharashtra's 764 for 6 declared. "I am not against anyone but at the same time, he is earning [Rs] 30-40 lakh [3-4 million] per season, so he needs to teach youngsters in a good way. Two-and-a-half days. We can also do the same when they come to play against us next time, but we all have to keep on improving our cricket."
Had Maharashtra declared just after Kedar Jadhav completed a triple ton on the second evening, their bowlers would have got a shot at the tired UP openers. But they continued to bat till bat 35 minutes into the third morning on a track that just doesn't have any assistance for the bowlers.
"I am unhappy with the way they have approached the game," Raina said. "Perhaps they were scared of us. Jadhav played well and the captain [Rohit Motwani] as well but they needed to give us time to chase well. If they really want to achieve their goal of doing well in the Ranji Trophy, there's no point in batting for almost two-and-a-half days and asking us to chase 765. But still we managed to reach almost 300 today. You might see something different from the UP team tomorrow."
Howsoever optimistic Raina tried to be, he eventually admitted it was virtually impossible to score nearly 480 runs in a day. "We will see how it goes in the first session. I am slated to bat next and then we have Piyush [Chawla], Parvinder [Singh], Arish Alam as well, so we have a long batting line-up. Still you can't look to chase more than 460 on the last day. Somewhere around 340-350 is gettable but 460 is virtually out of question.
"I am not happy with these tactics. We won against Delhi and when we came here - this is their first game - I thought they would try and improve on where they had left last season. But they were safe, they were too defensive. Hopefully they will improve over the next couple of games."
It wasn't just the tactics. Raina was equally critical of the pitch which was nothing but a batsman's paradise. "No bounce, no pace, no spin. There is literally nothing in it for the bowlers. They work so hard on their game, there has to be something in it for them. There are some who need to pick a lot of wickets in order to come back into the Indian team but they can't do anything about it when you have such wickets."