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Akshay Wadkar’s maiden ton flattens Delhi

The wicketkeeper-batsman guides Vidarbha to a commanding position

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.

With the team on 246 for six, Aditya Sarvate joined Wadkar in an effort to carry the Vidarbha innings past Delhi’s first innings total of 295. The duo played sensibly to help seize a lead and carried on determinedly to build on it. As the inched forward, Sarvate was dropped on 49 by Gautam Gambhir off Vikas Mishra and the batsman completed his half-century.

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   

Prajakta Pawar

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Virat & Co. upbeat ahead of SA challenge

The Indian captain was positive about the team’s chances this time around in South Africa and reckoned his team was in the right frame of mind ahead of the series

Team India sweat it out with a rigorous practice session on their arrival in Cape Town. They had two sessions that were intense and long that lasted for more than four hours with batsmen taking turns on the center wicket according to their batting order and bowlers testing out their arms after the conclusion of the recent Sri Lanka series at home. A few were launched out of the park much to the admiration of a few Indian fans who had gathered here at the Wester Province Cricket Club to catch a glimpse of their favorite cricket stars.

The bowlers found some juice on the pitch with a few getting a lot of carry. Hitting the right lines and lengths were on the top of the radar with bowling coach B Arun and Head coach Ravi Shastri taking turns to share a little something after each one’s stint at practice. The management made a conscious decision to opt out of the tour match and go in for long hauls at practice instead. This according to the Indian captain proved to be a better choice rather than a tour match.

“If you look at the wicket we are playing on right now, it’s not even going to be 15% of what we will get in the game. We understand that. There is no point wasting two days, guys going in, scoring quick fifties and coming out. We would rather have them do two sessions like today, get into the Test match zone and test ourselves,” Virat said. “We can try and prepare the wickets the way you want to. But if you are playing a two-day game there is no chance of changing the wicket at different times of the day. Here we have more freedom to put more water on the wicket, roll it, make it harder come tomorrow’s practice session and you have conditions you want. You are never sure whether you are getting quality practice games or not. We would rather have practice sessions that are in our control. It doesn’t matter if you play three practice games if you are not in the right kind of frame of mind. If you are in a good headspace and (have a) good practice session then that’s good enough as well.”

Talking about headspace, Kohli believed the team was in the right frame of mind to counter challenging conditions in South Africa this time around. “We come to South Africa knowing that the wickets will be different from back home. We are prepared about what we are going to get here. We are under no delusions as to what we are going to be presented with. Come the fifth of January we are ready for it. I feel the kind of bowling attack we have and the kind of batting experience we have, we definitely believe we can win here. There is no two ways about it. If we don’t have that mindset there is no point of getting on that flight as well.

“We have come here wanting to express ourselves, believing in our ability knowing that we have the right balance to win Test matches in any conditions. This one is a good opportunity to for us to play good cricket. We are not thinking whether we are playing in South Africa or any other country. For us it’s about winning sessions, being in the present, expressing ourselves well, not looking at the history.

“All I can say is the team is up for the challenge,” Head Coach Ravi Shastri added. “In fact, if you had asked me four years ago, I would have said no. But this team has gained experience. You have got bench strength in your fast bowling department which is the key to taking 20 wickets. The beauty of this team is it doesn’t matter which opposition it is playing. We respect all oppositions. We look at the pitch and adapt to those conditions.”

Shastri had said before the team’s departure that the next year and a half will define Indian cricket with the team set to travel abroad and test itself in conditions like South Africa, England, and Australia. Virat echoed the coach’s views. “We are looking forward to this period. We honestly feel we have the skill set. Now is the opportunity because of the average age of the group and the amount of cricket we are going to play together in the future. We are looking at this phase as a time we will remember forever for the rest of our lives. We are not putting pressure on ourselves that we have to win in every country. We want to enjoy playing together. And that has been the highlight of this team. The team spirit is the standout feature.”

On the personal front, Virat has been on a roll with a bucket full of runs in the year gone by. The Indian captain believed he was well equipped to counter tougher territories and has the team that knows what it is set out to do. “I know my game much better than four years ago. I’ve had many highs and lows. The team is very comfortable with where we stand, individually with our skill sets and as a team. We know how to bounce back as a team and we know how to create chances when we have to. There is an intelligence and awareness that has crept in in the last four years and that provides the excitement I was talking about. We know exactly what we need to do when it comes game time on 5th January. It’s not like we’re going to go out there and explore what might happen. We know how to win Test matches now and I think that’s a very good habit and knowledge to have.”

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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