The spin-mockery continued in the Ranji Trophy with the final round of fixtures witnessing a couple of two-day finishes on Tuesday. At Dindigul, 40 wickets fell in 145.3 overs with the spinners taking 39 of them. Punjab captain Harbhajan Singh defended the pitch after a 243-run victory that secured his team’s place in the knockouts. But the fact of the matter is that he didn’t use even a single fast bowler in the whole game. Only one seamer was called into action; Tamil Nadu’s J Kousik bowling four overs for one wicket in the first innings.
In Malappuram also, the Group C encounter between Kerala and Himachal Pradesh was over in two days. Thirty-four wickets fell in 115.2 overs with Himachal winning by six wickets to be on the cusp of quarter-finals. Spinners accounted for 26 scalps in that game.
First, the Tamil Nadu game. It was a must-win affair for the last season’s Ranji runners-up and they had prepared a pitch that would suit their spinners. Nothing unusual, for spin bowling has been their strength over the past couple of seasons. Spin-punch, however, didn’t work this time, because Punjab flattened them with counter-punches.
Rolling back the years
If young left-arm spinner Rajwinder Singh (6/29) was the hero for the visitors in the first innings, Harbhajan rolled back the years with a seven-for (7/37) in the second. Tamil Nadu were bundled out for 69, chasing a victory target of 313. They had made 68 in the first dig.
The hosts fell into their own trap, but Harbhajan didn’t mind. After all, Punjab were the visiting team and had no say over the nature of the surface. The skipper rightly savoured the win, especially after putting up a match-winning performance. “Nice to get those wickets, for wickets always give you confidence. I have been bowling well. The ball is coming nicely of my hand. Now I’ve wickets in a winning cause. If it continues like this, I would soon be back in the (Team India) mix,” he told this paper.
Harbhajan is a proven performer. For the youngsters, however, a truckload of wickets on these pitches can prove to be a false dawn. Selectors would hardly take note. So, for Himachal Pradesh’s Rahul Singh or Bipul Sharma, who took 6/19 and 6/33 in the first and second innings respectively in their team’s convincing win over Kerala, appreciation might come with a pinch of salt.
It is same for Kerala left-arm spinner K Monish, who accounted for four Himachal Pradesh batters without conceding a run in the second innings to take his match haul to seven wickets. Kerala, on 25 points from seven matches before this game, went full throttle against Himachal to seal a knockout berth. They followed the spin fad. Discretion might have been the better part of valour.