Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more. For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.
The value of playing for a strong domestic side and shouldering the responsibility of being its main batsman was proved today in the form of a wonderful batting performance by Vijay Bharadwaj.
He plays for Karnataka and in the absence of its star batsman Rahul Dravid, who hardly plays domestic cricket, Vijay has held the Karnataka batting together in many pressure situations.
It must be said that Karnataka produces cricketers of pedigree, and very rarely do you find a player from Bangalore who does not make the transition from domestic to International cricket successfully.
So when Bhardwaj walked out to bat with India's score reading an unhealthy 134 for 4 with just over 10 overs to go, he wasn't overawed by the situation and played his natural game-as if he were playing a domestic match. The result was a brilliant 41 n.o in 30 balls.
His performance meant Ajay Jadeja's dismissal - run out for 31 in over number 46, was not terribly crucial and India reached a fairly good score of 220 in 50 overs. In the last 13 overs, India scored 101 runs, an indication of how well Jadeja and Bharadwaj played and conversely how well the Kenyans bowled and fielded in the first 35 odd overs.
India started off very slowly, mainly because the ball was swinging and seaming around on a damp pitch early in the morning. Ramesh took 29 balls to get... off the mark and India scored just 17 in the first 10 overs.
Saurav decided to take a few chances after the tenth over. A few lovely strokes over the in-field saw the score double to 35 in 13 overs when Saurav fell, again caught going for a big hit, in identical fashion to the previous game. It must be disappointing for him to get out in such a manner after doing all the hard work early on.
Ramesh again showed he has a fine temperament and although hedidn't make more than 50, at least he didn't throw it away after such a slow start. By preserving his wicket, he avoided exposing the middle order to the difficult conditions thus creating a platform for the later order stroke-makers. However, he must concentrate harder on getting centuries when he has the opportunity, that is the difference between ordinary and world-class players.
A total of 220 was always going to challenge Kenya who are a better bowling side. Their batting depends heavily on the first four batsmen, and they all failed.
Debashish Mohanty, improving with every spell, bowled brilliantly. He consistently beat the bat with well pitched and directed Outswinger bowling and picked up a couple of wickets. Prasad also bowled well (they are both becoming quite a team) and grabbed 2 wickets to have Kenya helplessly placed at 42 for 4 in the 10th over.
The match was all but over from then on and with the two spinners Joshi and Chopra bowling as well as their pace bowling colleagues, the match petered out into a tame finish with India winning easily by 58 runs.
Vijay Bharadwaj deserves special mention for chipping in with 3 wickets for 38 and fielding with great enthusiasm as well. The combined batting and bowling efforts fetched him the Man-of the Match Award.
Wicketkeeper Prasad, another player improving with every outing, had 4 catches and 1 stumping, to total 5 dismissals, an Indian record which he shares with S Vishwanath, Kiran More and Nayan Mongia.
With a spot in the final almost guaranteed, unless Zimbabwe beat us by a huge margin, Sunday's final most probably against South Africa promises to be a beauty, more so because the South Africans will be looking to avenge the disgraceful loss in the first match.
India: 220 for 7 in 50 overs,
Ramesh 50, Bharadwaj 41 n.o. and Jadeja 31.
Kenya: 162 all out in 50 overs
Thomas Odoyo 33
Bharadwaj 3 for 38, Prasad 2 for 26 Mohanty 2 for 25.
Next Match v/s Zimbabwe on 1st October. Read more
-Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAE
The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.