Boy, burning deck, et al

This year’s Ranji final turned out to be one of those games where, the minute the result was known, you felt sorry for the team that had lost.

Fair result overall: Bombay won more of the crucial sessions and showed the ice-in-the-veins quality that separates champion sides from the rest; Karnataka in contrast stuffed up on key sessions when things were going in its favor, took control only to surrender it  again, and when push came to shove, the collective nerve just didn’t hold.

On a helpful pitch, bowlers on both sides produced scintillating spells — but at the end of it all, the man you felt sorry for was young Manish Pandey. Faced with the task of scoring a record number of runs to upset the champions, the Karnataka batsmen came to the crease intent on survival; the ‘game plan’ seemed structured on the lines of if we hang around out there long enough, the runs will come and the target will be reached.

Bad move, on a wicket that afforded considerable assistance to bowlers of all types. Manish alone appeared to have figured out that you have to actively pursue a target, and he alone had the skill — phenomenal skill, really — and the nerve to play his game his way.

The one image that will remain after all others — outstanding deliveries, some scarcely credible fielding efforts, and even Manish’s silken stroke-making — are forgotten is something I saw on the TV screen earlier today. The camera swept across a full house at the Glades, then panned out and across to long lines of spectators outside the gates, queuing up to get in.

That one image gives the lie to what we are constantly told — that in this country there isn’t enough interest in domestic tournaments featuring unknown names; that the only time crowds will come is when the superstars turn out for international duty.

Clearly, that is not true. Clearly, it is not about who is playing. At least, it is not entirely about who is playing as much as it is about the expectation of witnessing some great cricket.

If our domestic competition hasn’t drawn crowds, the fault then is not with the lack of marquee value of participating players as it is with an administration, national and local, that has neither the will nor the inclination to provide the sort of conditions that can make for gripping contests.

In recent times, the BCCI has repeatedly revised its domestic structure. Maybe it is time now to revise its mindset; to instruct its curators to prepare good wickets; to spend some energy publicizing its domestic calendar as opposed to hyping the next dozen India-Sri Lanka games; to build a buzz around the domestic circuit and to give spectators a reason to turn out.

Build it, and they will come. As they did here, while an ‘Idea Cup’ went largely unwatched.

One final regret: Zaheer Khan was busy with one-day duties — but imagine what this contest could have been, with Dravid turning out for Karnataka and Tendulkar [and even Rohit Sharma — surely the Indian team could have found someone else to bring out spare bats?] for Bombay.

In passing, check this out [the video I wish I could throw up is a pull young Manish played last evening, off the front foot to a short ball from Agarkar, smashing the ball in the arc between mid wicket and mid off — tangentially apropos, read Osman Samiuddin on the pull as played by Ponting]. And in watching the video, forget the flying through the air stunt — keep an eye, during the replays, on what the fielder does as soon as he gets the ball in hand while still airborne — the wrist curving down to ensure the ball wouldn’t hit the turf, in the midst of all those acrobatics: awesome!


32 thoughts on “Boy, burning deck, et al

  1. Hi Prem.

    Like always your columns are a delight to read. I was not happy with the choice of Ricky as a player of the decade and your article spelt out why I felt like that.

    Your coverage of the Ranji final has been superb. Can you write something about the composition of our test team at the moment though? In the finals two players stood out for me with vast difference in their talents. Manish Pandey the obvious one for the pace at which he scored and the attack, the conditions, etc. Other player was Abhishek Nayar who showed the ability to hang around and have crucial partnerships to help Mumbai twice. Also he is a useful medium pacer although admittedly the jury is out on that one.

    I personally feel Yuvraj is a weaklink in our test team. Can you imagine him playing a fighting innings on a difficult track like this? I cannot. I thik we desperately need to break in new talents so that they can share the dressing room with Sachin and Rahul. Vijay and Pandey have got to be in the reckoning and played wherever possible.

    We are number one now, but I think the jury is out until we overcome Wanderers like pitches which one saw yesterday

  2. I enjoyed the match on the web. Manish Pandey was terrific. But as a team, Mumbai was awesome.

    BTW, what is Sunil Joshi, at 39 years 222 days, doing in Karnataka team? Isn’t Ranji a platform for selectors to choose for the national team?

    • “Isn’t Ranji a platform for selectors to choose for the national team?”

      No. We have IPL for that. IPL to International T20 to ODI and finally Test Match is the process that is being followed lately.

      On a more serious note, Test, Ranji, Duleep and Irani trophy matches all belong to first-class category. While performances in domestic first-class matches are (or should be) the basis for selection in the national team they do not exist merely to serve that purpose. A player may have retired or be well past selection age for the national team but could still be good enough to play other first-class matches.

    • Why should age be an issue?It should always be cricketing ability,interest,commitment and fitness.Also these are now professionals-if they don’t play at Ranji level-how will they earn?The playing age is anyways limited to 25 years.
      India anyways has many platforms where youngsters can show their talent.How many selectors were there throughout this game?With the selectors panel being based on regional associations pushing their candidates what’s in it for selectors who were not from Kar or Mumbai.

  3. There was another Ranji final closer than this when Bombay lost to Kapil’s Haryana by 2 runs. Speaking of stars this match featured 8 test players in the Bombay side. In all in this game 15 players had played or went on to play International Cricket. Bombay batting featured SRT,Manjrekar,Vengsarkar,Kambli,Rajput,Pandit was an almost Indian test lineup they had to face the Indian pace duo of Kapil and Chetan Sharma.

    I still remember listenting to the final day’s play on the radio.

  4. Good pitches = good matches = interested fans. The BCCI honchos don’t seem to get this simple formula judging by the flat wickets for some of the recent test / ODI series.

  5. Hats off to Pandey for a top class innings. Pity, it wasn’t a winning one.

    Yes, it would have been great if SRT and RSD had been allowed to turn up for their teams.

    But then, if instead of Dhawal, if it were SRT in the Dhawal-Nayar partnership, would we have remembered Nayar’s contribution ? Similarly, the Nayar century in the SFinals may also have gone unnoticed if SRT had played well. Same goes for RSD’s contributions.

    What I liked about these teams is the fact that, despite the “stars” not playing, there are others in team who stand up and be counted, when the team needs them the most. Be it Dhawal Kulkarni, Abhishek Nayay, Pawan, Satish or Pandey (isnt he a star already!!).

    Cheers !

    • I agree with your larger point — the reason I missed RD and SRT was that in a tough contest of this kind, it would have done the others a world of good to have experienced internationals around. In a batting fest on a dead track, there is little to learn, but in a game like this, much could have been taught, and imbibed by the next generation, and that is one major reason I believe stars should play domestic.

      • Agree in Toto !! 🙂

        Which makes me think that we should have more such tracks for domestic games ?? There’s absolutely nothing wrong if Team A is 40/4 or 50/5 on D1 of a game. The more players learn to get out of such situations, the more they’ll be prepared to face similar challenges at a higher level of competition. I’m really glad that way both teams showed that they’ve got what it takes to get out of situations like that and did a good job of it.

        Seriously Prem, I was quite surprised/disappointed by some celebrated journalists and cricket writers, calling this track NOT GOOD for the game. I thought they’d lost IT.

        On a related note, Karnataka probably LOST it because many of the guys are playing their FIRST final and didn’t know what it’s to WIN such crunch games. Mumbai, whereas, has been there and done that and closed it out in their favor.

        • I think the most significant difference between the two teams was in the contribution of the lower-order batting. Wickets 6-10 for Mumbai contributed 313 runs and Karnataka’s 145.

          This may just be a coincidence but the more famous “boy on the burning deck” match (Chennai ’99) had 4 Karnataka bowlers (Srinath, Kumble, Joshi and Prasad) forming the tail for India.

      • First of all, let me preface my comment with the statement. I am a big 10d fan and what follows is in no way an attempt to malign him.

        However, I think its a good thing that 10d sat out this game. Given his horrible luck with captaincy, Mumbai wud hav contrived to lose this one as well. I guess, if Ambani replaced the entire MI team with the Mum Ranji team, they stand a better shot at IPL3.

  6. Tendulkar and Dravid playing this match might have made it even more special. Or it may not have. But what can be guaranteed is that the incidents described in the DNA article or Bhopale’s link would not have been allowed to take place. Really disgusting. Where does the Mumbai team’s appetite for such churlish acts disappear when Sachin is around? Do you think the DNA incident says as much about Wasim Jaffer’s inability to control his team as the second does about Abhishek Nayar?

    Tendulkar and Dravid have been great cricketers, but more importantly they have been fantastic role models. Of the present lot, Dhoni is a statesman and Viru has his head grounded, but the rest of them are likely to fly off a handle. Not sure how long it will be until we see the Indian team flooded with people of immense talent and great integrity like Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble and Laxman.

    • Per Cricinfo’s commentary

      Jaffer: “I am proud with the boys, the coach and supporting staff, Karnataka played well and I would like to congratulate them. The pitch was good and chasing on the fourth day is difficult.”

      Uthappa: “We were confident in the morning with Pandey and Satish at the crease, we thought we could make it, but we lost wickets and could not get across the line.”

      What a gracious man, the captain of Karnataka…So appreciative of the opposition’s performance… We could all learn from him!


      • Oh wow, when I replied to your comment addressed to me, I didn’t realize this Bombay versus Karnataka thing was part of an ongoing series. Incidentally, the next time MS Dhoni says something like “We thought we could overhaul the total but the top order batsmen didn’t deliver” or some such, I’ll link to this comment as an exemplar of losing badly. Mountains, molehills, et cetera

        • There is no Mumbai Karnataka ongoing thing Prem.. But you should know better than me that there are three sides to every story and taking a moral stance on any issue is full of pitfalls..

          My problem with this comment, and the link to the DNA article you linked to, is precisely this.. Everyone has their own set of values and principles.

          But since when did our values supersede the written rules of play.

          The BCCI has a code of conduct in place. Per that

          6. The umpires have also been empowered to impose penalty on
          the bowlers, fielders and batsmen if they are found guilty of
          gross misbehaviour or of using offensive comments on the field
          such as :
          (a) In the event of the bowler being found guilty of gross
          misbehaviour or of using offensive comments on the field
          such as :
          1) Swearing at the umpires, batsman or any other player or
          2) Showing public dissent at the umpire’s decisions.
          3) Man handling an umpire, the batsman or the spectator.
          4) Kicking the stumps and indulging in any ungentlemanly
          and unsporting conduct which might bring the game into
          The Umpire concerned shall announce and call and signal
          dead ball and suspend the bowler from further bowling in
          that innings and allow another bowler to complete the over
          from the same and provided this bowler shall not bowl two
          over or part thereof consecutively in that inning.
          (b) If a fielder other than the bowler indulges in such acts as
          stated above, the umpire shall direct the Captain of the
          fielding side to send the concerned fielder out of the field for
          that session and no substitute shall be allowed in his
          In addition to taking action as stated in paras (a) and (b)
          above the Umpire shall also report the occurrence to the
          Captain of the batting side as soon as players leave the field
          for an interval.
          The umpire shall also report to the Executive Authority of the
          fielding side and to the Governing body responsible for
          conduct of the match.
          Also, report to the referee who may take further action
          against the concerned bowler or player deemed fit.
          (c) In the event of the batsman being found guilty of gross
          misbehaviour or using offensive comments on the field such
          as :
          1) Swearing at the umpires, bowlers or any other player or a
          2) Showing public dissent at the umpire’s decision.
          3) Man handling the umpire, the bowler, the fielder or a
          4) Kicking the stumps or hitting the stumps with the bat when
          given out or indulging in any ungentlemanly and unsporting
          conduct which might bring the game into disrepute.
          The Umpire at the bowler’s end shall report the occurrence to the
          Executive Authority of the batting side and to the governing body
          responsible for staging the match. Also report to the Referee who
          may take further action against the batsman concerned if deemed

          In the DNA article you linked to, the umpires followed procedure.. So why the moral outrage?

          And why this “On the other hand, it was surprising that the match referee continued to act soft on the players. All spectators witnessed the incident but the match referee didn’t take any action.”

          If anything, the real outrage is the lack of knowledge of the rules on the part of the writer of the article. But no one is commenting about that, is anyone?

          The commentator above takes umbrage to the Mumbai team’s “churlish” behavior, I take umbrage to Robin Uthappa’s lack of charity in recognizing his opponents.

          Now, you are welcome to interpret it as you wish, that is entirely your prerogative!


          • Would you congratulate your opponent if he/they just told you to f**k off ! There’s only so much sledging/mental disintegration/abuse anyone can take and still ‘ congratulate’ the opponent.

            If you and your team are to be rated as a champion side , it should go above merely the winning bit. Why wasn’t the Aus team under Ponting not revered/rated that high ? Because he and his team pushed the boundary of acceptable behaviour.

            Enjoy the Mumbai victory but please you are not kidding anyone here if you say your Mumbai jingoism isn’t at play.

            • It just so happens TG that Robin Uthappa copped a fine along with Agarkar for his behavior


              so you are welcome to derive whatever interpretation of team behavior and all else.

              And if you read my previous comment, my issue is not so much with jingoism as it is with the moral posturing that is at play here.

              And for what its worth, Uthappa’s statement in the above url/article is particularly telling – both because of his “grace under fire” and because of his lack of knowledge/wanton disregard of the BCCI Code of Conduct that explicitly states

              (g) Players and Team Officials shall not disclose or comment upon any alleged breach of the code or upon any hearing, report or decision arising from such breach.

              And now I will celebrate #39 in a jingoistic and partisan way, behavior be damned! 🙂


              • Sure Uthappa copped a fine, but every other incident has only Mumbai players being just plain obnoxious !! If that’s how you like your team to be pictured, so be it 🙂

                I for one can’t take the high horse in all of this , since I’m an ardent Aus supporter and we all know how they are perceived !

                • Obnoxious or not, that is relative to the viewer.

                  As regards Australia, I have a theory on this. For as long as I can remember, Australians have been pushing the narrative that because they play the game a particular way, it is incumbent on all other teams to accept it as is. And deviations from the Australian narrative of the game ( excess appealing, 8-1 fields) etc is just not cricket. This is irrespective of what the ICC rules state or dont.

                  And because they have a “Spirit of Cricket” code in place, it absolves them of every transgression and violation of the ICC rule book.

                  The problem stems from the fact that Match Referees have swallowed this narrative whole, and therefore there is a great disparity in how code violations are judged across teams.. Some teams cope higher penalties than others, some get away with the most blatant disregard for the game. And this breeds resentment.

                  As regards Ponting, the problem is not so much that he plays the game in the manner described above but because he is quick to ride the moral high horse every time his team is penalized. But at the same time, he is not averse to dispensing free advise to others on what they should or should not do and how and why they are wrong.

                  As far as the Oz team goes, I dont think Mike Hussey is looked upon in the same manner as Ponting or invites half the opprobrium Ponting does.


                  • I don’t deny that Australia have pushed the boundaries , in fact under Ponting they’ve just gone even further. If that’s possible ! That doesn’t make it right and I for one don’t view it as being right and voice it as much.

                    That said, it doesn’t mean that other teams should then try and emulate the Australian antics.

                    Surely you don’t believe what the Mumbai players did on the last day as being acceptable behaviour ! If yes, then I’m afraid you’ve got no right to talk about Ponting, Australia and their on field behaviour.

                    Sauce for the Goose surely has to be sauce for the gander ???

                    Cheers !!

                    • TG,

                      There are two views on acceptable and unacceptable behavior – one that falls within the purview of the rules and one that falls within the purview of our moral prism.

                      As long as the behavior is within the bounds of the rules, what our moral stand on said behavior is doesn’t matter a jot. You think Mumbai’s behavior was unacceptable, you are entitled to your view. Unfortunately, the umpires and the match referee dont agree. And that is the only thing that matters.

                      And by the same token I can be critical of Ponting et al if their behavior is in contravention of the rules. If you are seriously making the argument that because I dont evaluate Mumbai’s on field behavior by the same moral prism as you denies me the right to speak out against Brad Haddin breaking the stumps and claiming a bowled, sorry, no can do – in this case they are different sauces, cant be the same for the goose and gander!!


                    • Homer

                      For starters, can’t you just get your blog back up and running and we could have this ‘ discussion’ there instead of using Prem’s blog 🙂

                      For some weird reason, can’t ‘ reply’ to your replies. Hence here is my take on it.

                      The only point of disagreement that we have here is that while I accept Aus always push the boundary and frankly by the same token Mumbai haven’t been angels either.

                      In your case, you want to evaluate Mumbai and Aus by different prisms, which to me doesn’t seem right.

                      To each his own. Let’s agree to disagree on this.

                      Fair to say I guess – Mumbai are the ‘ Australia’ of Indian domestic cricket scene. Is that a praise or a slight, that’s upto you 🙂

                    • TG,

                      Have I said that Agarkar or Kulkarni should not pay the fines? Or have I said that their behavior was excusable? I would like to know where I made that assertion.

                      And based on that I would like to know how you came to the conclusion that “you want to evaluate Mumbai and Aus by different prisms”.

                      And dopaisekatamasha is dead, and thats the way it will stay.. Anyways< i agree with you taje we are taking up too much of Prem's space, so this is the last I will have to say on the issue.


          • Homer, here’s the deal. Since you seem unable to interpret my post the way it was meant, let it lie. Take a moment to read Sriram’s comment, to which you posted that reply about the respective captains. Where’s the relevance? I try to avoid noise on this forum. You had a point of view, you mentioned it once [albeit out of context] — to then post similar thoughts in all sorts of irrelevant areas is a bit much, pal. Chill.

      • Actions speak louder than words. I read about the Mumbai teams over the top and probably disrespectful celebrations. That’s not sportsmanship. Play hard, win hard. But, please keep the childish tantrums to yourself. As a former Mumbai denizen, I followed the Kanga league and Ranji matches pretty closely. Mumbaikars always played cricket tough, but bad on field behavior wasn’t common. Maybe these celebrations were also one-off or maybe they were instigated, but it doesn’t justify or excuse it. Bad behavior is bad behavior.

  7. In addition to responsive pitches, the BCCI should organize games in smaller towns and get rid of the first innings lead concept (most games turn out to be one innings snooze fests…no one wants to see 250/3 at the end of the day)

    • yes it is. hadn’t seen this at the time, just catching up on some reading now. catch them young seems to apply to bad behavior as much as about cricket skills, these days

  8. In addition to what you have said, I feel that every match in the tournament should be a five day affair thereby giving the team who lost the first innings lead to still fight back for an outright win. Most teams end up being happy with a first innings lead and unless one team plays bad, an outright win in 4 days is pretty difficult (only one third of the matches this season had outright result).

    BCCI need to build on the success of this final to generate more interest in Ranji. But it might take a big failure of IPL3 for BCCI to wake up.

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