A ‘golden’ year for Duleep Trophy

A ‘golden’ year for Duleep Trophy

The Duleep Trophy, once considered a stepping stone to India’s selection, has been robbed of its importance in recent years.

Fortunately, the BCCI has given it the enthusiasm it deserves this season and brought back the regional format against players representing Red, Green or Blue- team names that were reminded of the whimsy of their annual
Sports Day.

The final being contested by West Zone and South Zone in Coimbatore promises to be an entertaining one, though Mumbai cricket fans will be sore to see Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Sarfaraz Khan not scoring big runs in the first innings for West Zone . ,

The tournament was once dominated by the West Zone, which was first played in 1961–62. In the first 25 seasons, he had his hands on silverware a dozen times. While the North and South also had sunny times, Central claimed their first victory in 1971–72.

Interestingly, the 1972 calendar year saw two Duleep Trophy finals—one in March for the 1971–72 season and the other in November, which was part of the 1972–73 season. These finals included West Zone and Central Zone led by Ajit Wadekar and Hanumant Singh respectively.

The 1971–72 game at Central College Ground in Bangalore ended in favor of Central. Batting first, West Zone were troubled by Salim Durrani’s left-arm spin (6–44) and his total was only 279, a score that did not do justice to their star-studded batting line-up that included Test men. Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar were present. , Dilip Sardesai and Eknath Solkar. The score would have been much lower had it not been for some sloping catch for which Central was to blame.

Gavaskar was playing his first Duleep Trophy final. He arrived in India after playing the rest of the world in Australia and scored a century on his regional cricket debut against East Zone in Jamshedpur.

In the final at Bangalore, he was dismissed for 30 and seven. Central didn’t do much better than West on the batting front – got out for 200 – with Solkar claiming the same number of wickets as Durani.

However, defeats by openers Ramnath Parkar and Gavaskar (dismissed by his St Xavier’s College mate Kailash Gatani) in the final hour of the second day took away some of the joy for the West.

On the third day, West was bowled out for 195. Durrani sent back Hemant Kanitkar, Milind Rege and Ajit Naik, while Central’s future Test batsman Parthasarathy Sharma claimed 4-38. An unwell Sardesai came in at No 8 and blew 40 in an hour through some of the best cover drives. However, wicketkeeper Narendra Menon took a cut shot.

Central had to score 275 runs to win and Durani scored an unbeaten 83. Central’s second star Sharma scored 75 runs as West suffered a two-wicket defeat. Hanumant cleverly led his troops and young cannon Sanjay Jagdale, future Test selector and BCCI secretary, benefited from the captain’s qualities. “I was only 22 then. Before the match Hanumant called me to his room and said that I can be the match winner. I played against him in the Ranji Trophy league, but this was the first time I was under his leadership.

“In the first innings of WZ I was positioned at either fine leg or third man, but as we were entering the field for the second innings, Hanumant asked me to field in the street. My brother Ashok took the first wicket for Mumbai – Ramnath Parkar. A few minutes later, Sunil slipped and I took a diving catch in the lane. Another masterstroke from Hanuman was getting Parthasarathy to bowl his off-spin, which was crucial to the result,” Jagdale told me from Indore.

Unfortunately for Central, they could not reprise their Bangalore show in Mumbai until later. They were blown away by the raw pace of Pandurang Salgaocar at the Brabourne Stadium, where he claimed 7–72 to be dismissed for 246 for Central. Kailash Gatani, the fast bowler who scored an unbeaten 46 for Central, told me from Pune. On Wednesday: “Pandu [Salgaoncar’s nickname] He was India’s fastest bowler at that time. He was raw, agile and never believed in taking breaks. During that match I saw their captain Ajito [Wadekar] He urged her to rest for a while. But he just wanted to continue. He definitely should have played Test cricket for India.” Well, Gattani is another fast bowler who missed India’s colours.

In a way, West Zone avenged the defeat in Bangalore. This time, Wadekar and Sardesai scored big centuries before Central was bowled out for 112 to give West an innings win.

West has not won the Duleep Trophy since 2009-10. Not only would captain Ajinkya Rahane have to be as clever as Wadekar in November 1972. He too has to lead by example like Wadekar did through his innings of 171.

Mid-Day’s Group Sports Editor Clayton Murzello is an open-minded purist.
He tweeted @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com
The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper.

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