The matches of the round
Nishit Shetty, who moved from Mumbai to Tripura, fell 13 short of masterminding an incredible run-chase . Vidarbha had set Tripura 301 runs to get in 81 overs on the final day. Shetty scored 130 in 137 balls but the later half of the Tripura innings came apart. At one point, they needed 60 runs in more than 10 overs and had five wickets in hand.
At Silchar, S Suresh scored 102 runs out of the 350 Assam scored in both innings and also took six wickets to help them beat Kerala, his former team, by 32 runs . Kerala, who were bowled out for 85 in the first innings, put up a stiff fight in the second innings, ending the third day needing 66 out of the 267 they were set. But they lost their last four wickets for 33 on the final morning.
At the Barabati Stadium, Orissa, needing 295 runs on the final day, lost five of their wickets for 111 but their tail put up a commendable fight to almost eke out a draw . In the end, Niranjan Behera and Debasis Mohanty's efforts failed as Andhra dismissed the last Orissa batsman with 23 balls to spare. The partnerships for the eighth, ninth and 10th wickets lasted 15, 8.2 and 5.1 overs respectively.
Oh for some enterprise
Punjab and Tamil Nadu, who had secured first-innings leads against their respective opponents, could have ensured two more close matches had they made sporting declarations. As it happened, they chose to bat the opposition out, and then some more. Punjab set Uttar Pradesh 358 to get in 60 overs, while Karnataka were given 438 to chase in 75 overs. After some hitting in the first few overs, both teams shut shop after initial dismissals and played out safe draws. Punjab and Tamil Nadu are not to blame entirely as the team making a declaration has more to lose than gain by going for an outright win. Because if they happen to lose the match, they lose all the points they have gained for the first-innings lead. There should be some incentive that a team should be able to retain some points for the first-innings lead, irrespective of the result.
In Chandigarh for a Ranji game in Mohali, Mohammad Kaif went to watch Om Shanti Om, the movie somehow every Indian player wants to watch (remember Dhoni and the boys at the premiere). One can't be sure if Kaif found it an utter waste of his money and time, but he didn't want to get caught in the act of coming out of the theatre. So much so that he roughed up an over eager photographer. It didn't sit well with the journalistic fraternity in Chandigarh and they had to knock the doors of Home Secretary Krishnan Mohan, who finally got an FIR lodged against Kaif.
Kaif, in the end, buckled down under the pressure and made a resolution to move on in life. "Kaif shook hands with Ravi Kumar (the victim of his aggression), wishing him 'the best'," the Tribune reported. "Everyone commits mistakes. It is not my life to go to the police and courts... My life is in my game and I should focus on it," Kaif was quoted as saying. The paper went on to say: "He said he could not sleep last night and had received calls from his parents and friends. The way the incident had been projected had upset him and he would be returning with bitter memories of the city."
When he did move on to the real purpose of visit to the city, Kaif collected mixed memories from the cricket as well. After having restricted Punjab to 103 for 4 and 92 for 4, Kaif's Uttar Pradesh let Punjab score more than 350 on both occasions. And when they batted they fell short by six runs of a first-innings lead. The only solace for Kaif: he scored two half-centuries in the match, the second one to ensure a draw and with that a point. One can only hope that Kaif looks at the positives from the visit to Chandigarh.
Most difficult place to field
It's official: the Mumbai crowd is equally hostile to local players. Ramesh Powar, the homeboy who has been one of their best players this season, had to go through the torture of having to field at the boundary near the Garware Pavilion, which is fast becoming one of the most unpleasant fielding positions in world cricket. To his credit, Powar endured the Motu Powar and Jadeya (both meaning fat in Hindi and Marathi respectively) chants and other abuse all day. But it turned out he had marked his men in the crowd and bashed them up after the day's play. "They abused me personally and that is what upset me. I could not help but react," Powar told Mid Day, the local tabloid. Well, it is only human to react, as did Dilip Vengsarkar during the Ranji Trophy final in 1994-95, the paper didn't fail to remind us. But it couldn't have been worth Powar's time and effort to get physically involved.
Bat-ter luck next time
Virender Sehwag, back to playing Ranji games, had in his kit one of Sachin Tendulkar's bat, autographed by Tendulkar. At the nets, on the eve of the Delhi-Mumbai game, he put the bat to good use, Mumbai paper DNA reported. "Dear Viru, wishing you the best always," read the message, according to the paper. Sehwag, though, refused to talk much about the bat. "Sachin may get upset [if he did talk]. If he gets upset he may not give me his bats anymore."
One can't be sure if he batted with the same bat in the match. He scored 16 in the first innings and when he batted for the second time, there was no bat involved: he was out lbw on the first ball.
The fan request of the week
A lot can change in a year. Irfan Pathan, fresh from a successful comeback to Indian ODI side, was back to representing Baroda in a Ranji match at Hyderabad. The crowd turned matchmaker and chanted, "Irfan bhai, please marry our Sania Mirza." A welcome change, one can be sure, from the Chappell ka chamcha chants he had to endure in Baroda at the start of this year.
Guess who's back. The incomparable Ashish Nehra. He is not playing the Ranji Trophy just as yet. Quite to the contrary, his ankle injury will take two more months to heal, by when the Ranji Trophy will have ended. But our man is optimistic, so optimistic he seems to have made a basic error. "I am sure to play the Duleep and Deodhar Trophies and one-dayers." Just to break the cruel news, the zonal Duleep Trophy teams comprise some of the best performers in the Ranji Trophy and Nehra is not playing in that.