It was yet another youngster from Vidarbha who helped the team seize the momentum and put them in a commanding position in the Ranji Trophy 2017-18 final in Indore. Akshay Wadkar, who made his first-class debut earlier this season, posted his maiden century as he helped his team to a first innings lead and build on the advantage. Remaining unbeaten on 133* off 244 balls, the wicketkeeper-batsman had taken his team to Stumps at 528 for seven with Siddhesh Neral (56*).
When they resumed their innings in the morning, Vidarbha were trailing by 89 runs with Wasim Jaffer and A Wakhare in the middle. Both teams would have skipped a beat when the senior batsman was dropped on his overnight score on 61 off Navdeep Saini as Dhruv Shorey at first slip and Kunal Chandela diving to his left messed the chance of getting an early breakthrough. A bit later, Saini drew an edge from Wakhare through to the wicketkeeper to leave Vidarbha on 237 for five. Nine runs later, Jaffer was out lbw to the Delhi pacer.
Asked about coming in to bat with the team precariously poised, Wadkar said, “At the start, there was some pressure and it was a crucial situation in the game as well (but) Wasim (Jaffer) bhaiya was there with me in the middle. He told me to just watch the ball. And I continued to do that.”
Discussing the pressure and situation after Jaffer’s departure, he said, “Obviously there was pressure because we were still trailing. It was crucial to stay there in order to get the first innings lead. And when Adi bhaiya (Aditya Sarvate) joined me and we built a good partnership. It was important to do that. If we would have lost a wicket at that point we might not have been able to take a lead or even if we did it wouldn’t have been sizeable probably and the match would have been hanging in the balance.”
Asked about his batting, Wadkar said, “I wasn’t in the team only for the first three matches. But I performed in the local matches and that got me into the team. My aim was that whenever I get a chance I will do what is required of me. In my first outing I couldn’t but then in the quarter-final, I did. When the team is in a precarious position and needs me to stand up (I like to do it). I play under pressure. I have that confidence in me and so does sir (Chandrakant Pandit). He said, go and play.”
They resumed their efforts on 336 for six in the second session. Chipping away at the opposition they built the highest seventh-wicket stand of the season for Vidarbha at a crucial juncture in the all-important game of the season. Their partnership was worth 169 runs when Sarvate was sent back by Nitish Rana for 79. However, by then the match was tipped in Vidarbha’s favour. Speaking about their joint effort, Wadkar said, “We know each other’s game, so we are able to communicate well with each other and work things out.”
Siddhesh Neral then combined with Wadkar to glean runs off the Delhi attack. The wicket-keeper batsman brought up his maiden ton with a boundary over mid-on off Mishra at the stroke of Tea. The duo had taken the team to a solid 444 for seven until the end of the second session.
Reflecting on his century, Wadkar stated, “I had never thought that I will score a hundred. I had only thought that I have to stay not out and help my team win. I will contribute as much as I can (to that end). As the game moved forward, I also got my eye in so then I made it.”
Neral who was swinging his bat to add quick runs to the total continued to do so in the final session of the day as well while Wadkar held up one end. The batsman continued to take his chances and brought up a quick-fire half-century. Making most of the chances afforded to him he helped extend the lead with his senior partner.
Asked about Neral’s batting style and their partnership, Wadkar said, “Neral said I will play my shots. Am able to hit them and my luck is also favouring me since the catch was dropped and there was also a no-ball (that he was out on). Let’s make what we can today we don’t know what it will be like tomorrow.”
Complementing each other’s efforts the Wadkar-Neral pair had extended the Vidarbha lead 233.
“We had to play as long as possible. Sir had told us that play as long as you can and try to remain not out,” he replied.
Scorecard - http://www.bcci.tv/ranji-trophy-2017-18/match/91