February 13, 2017 12:44:26 am
At this juncture, Gautam Gambhir’s playing days for the national team seem to be beyond him. Now 35, he’s been chased and overtaken by the younger group and what’s worse he’s failed to make the most of an unexpected Test recall last year. That leaves the veteran opener well and truly far off the national reckoning. Shikhar Dhawan, on the other hand, finds himself floating in and out of the India spot he once claimed, unopposed. He’s no longer considered for international T20s and recently lost his Test spot, leaving him with only the ODI slot to be content with. The 31-year-old maverick’s constant fidgeting with his batting equipment between deliveries has become as rampant as his inconsistency on the pitch.
Then there’s Rishabh Pant, who won his first international cap just over a week back, and at the moment looks more assured of being an India regular than his much more celebrated fellow Delhi southpaws. Together, the trio of left-handers make up three different generations of Delhi’s elite cricketer production line. The kal, aaj and kal of Delhi cricket if you may. And they stepped up to the plate collectively at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, to lead North Zone to a comfortable eight-wicket win against South Zone in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy on Sunday. While they might presently be at different corners of the spectrum in terms of the Indian context, the three Delhi southpaws are equally relevant when it comes to T20 cricket at a domestic level. Gambhir still leads the most high-profile IPL team in the league while Dhawan is the marquee Indian player of the present IPL champions. Pant, meanwhile, was the highest-paid non-international cricketer in last year’s IPL auction and his stocks are if anything only on the rise. But already the status quo within their ranks seems to be undergoing a drastic change. In two weeks’ time, Dhawan and Gambhir will be playing under Pant, who was named Delhi captain for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the 50-over domestic competition.
Gambhir might not be as destructive as the other two, but he has created a niche at the top of the order in this format. And he was at his fluent best, elegantly driving through the covers or flicking down leg. The veteran of 58 Tests for India was also comfortable taking a step down the track to strike another India discard, R Vinay Kumar over square-leg for a boundary. He did that twice in fact.
Eventually, the veteran bowed out after playing a composed knock of 81 in 51 deliveries. Opening with Gambhir was Dhawan. He was shaky at the beginning, customarily getting beaten by a good length delivery pitched just outside off. But he settled soon enough, cutting the ball between gully and point with relish off consecutive Sreenath Aravind deliveries before dispatching a full toss over midwicket for six after stepping out. He weaved his way to a well-earned half-century, before leaping forward again, only to miss and get stumped out.
That set the stage for Pant. The last time he batted at Wankhede, he struck 308 off 326 in a Ranji league encounter against Maharashtra. Here he needed only three sixes and a four in a speedy 33 off 19 to show why Indian cricket seems so excited by his prospect. He finished the match off for good measure with a bludgeoning blow over the mid-wicket boundary.
In the earlier game, Harpreet Singh Bhatia notched a well-paced 62 to guide the Central Zone to a six-wicket win over the fancied West Zone team – which involved the likes of Parthiv Patel and Irfan Pathan.
Brief scores: South Zone 173/5 (Ricky Bhui 50, Vijay Shankar 34 not out; Ashish Nehra 2 for 35, M Dagar 2 for 31) lost to North Zone 176/2 (Shikhar Dhawan 50, Gautam Gambhir 81) by 8 wickets; West Zone 160 for 8 (A Tare 40, D Hooda 49 not out; A Choudhary 3 for 47) lost to Central Zone 165 for 4 (Harpreet Singh 62) by six wickets.
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