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ITCC vs Nagoya KCL-2010 Match Report

Tuesday 8 June, 2010

So near, yet so agonisingly far.
By T. J Udayaraj

The fire-brand captain grimacing in pain was hobbling, and needed support on Raman's shoulders, his blue flannels with a proud Tiger on its chest, looked dirty. The opponents were running in from different directions to give him a pat on his back. He just got out as the 9th batsman in the 34th over and was struggling to walk back to the hut. I ran in to help him, and as we both took him on our shoulders, all of a sudden, he broke down like a child...

It all began with the toss which Nagoya won it, and soon there were some wry smiling faces on our side. The captain had a look around and started scratching his head even before a ball had been bowled. The reason, he had to deal with not one but 5 handicapped Tigers. Deals were made while driving on the way, to field at safer positions. Somehow the field set, Nagoya started their innings. Madan, who scored a century last year, showed what confidence can do. He started middling the ball from the word go and punished whenever the bowlers erred in line or length especially Prashant who was returning to the team after an year. Surprisingly, the captain kept him on for too long and that too without a break, which in hindsight proved costly, I thought. Akash was good in patches in his opening spell but took out the dangerous Afridi with a beautiful yorker. Again it is frustrating that the captain's plea of no experiments falling in deaf ears, else would have ensured a longer spell for Akash. Bala was consistent but needed to show more fire, may be hindered by a leg injury.

In the end, it was Biju with his clever change of pace and terrific line and length broke the back of Nagoya team with  4 wickets. Parthi being little casual to respond to Captain's orders while fielding might have been facing his wrath as his entry into the bowling foray was getting delayed. Finally when given a chance, he surprised everyone with his genuine pace and control, and thereby reminding the captain that he deserves an opportunity at the top of the bowling order.

At lunch, with a target of 161 to chase down, the team looked quietly confident. Raman, at one down coming in as early as the 3rd ball of the innings, stamped his unmistakable touch of class with a fine innings. With his captain Rajeev at the other end, he shrugged off the early loss of Biju, with a good partnership for the 2nd wicket. Hasrat Ali, a genuine pace bowler and one of the best in KCL, was steaming in. Raman was cool, the good balls were patted back and any error in line and length were punished without fail. It was fantastic to watch, classical high elbow and all. Before getting out to a ball which kept very low, 38 of the finest runs in just 32 balls against some brilliant bowling! A real asset to our team.

Once Raman went, Tigers started to lose momentum with wickets falling at regular intervals from one end. From 58-1 in the 12th over to 92-5 in the 25th (34 runs loosing 4 wkts) Tigers were facing an uphill task.  Rajeev was fighting a lone battle and desperately looking for some support. In came Ramdas, who rose to the occasion with a fine short innings and forged a 33 run partnership. Rajeev playing as serene as one could imagine, started developing cramps and was seen struggling to even stand on his legs, and was given a runner. Meanwhile, Ramdas got out to a brilliant catch at short fine leg while playing a fine flick drive. And then another collapse ensued, from 125-5 to 134-9 (9 runs loosing 4 wkts).

Back to where I had began. Rajeev was out as the 9th man!! After opening the innings, the captain got out stumped in the 34th over, unable to drag back his leg to safety, because of severe cramps. After a monumental fight with his mind, vanquishing its vagaries, playing slowly but surely with single minded determination to guide his team, to its glory, the captain was lying helplessly outside the crease. And the ebullient, irrepressible man with a mad love for the four letter words was in tears!!  For a moment it felt surreal. Though just an ephemeral cry, it brought out the passion in him, the insatiable spirit and the will to fight. This is an innings which should be kept for reference. An innings against his nature, where every kinesthetic sense of him might have asked to hit, but his unwavering focus and desire to win willed him to play with patience.

Tigers were playing against a Nagoya team who had plundered 334 runs and more from us last year. The extra that they snatched mercilessly at that time, was our spirit, our will to dream. But it was also a lesson, a lesson in getting over the hurt, humiliation with some exaggerated stories of satiric fun at ourselves. And at 134/9 needing another 27 runs, did we have the spirit, the will to dream? Parthi and Prashant showed just that, and almost did it! At 158/9 it was that man, Hasrat Ali again, smartly kept for that final burst by his captain, produced one last thunderbolt to win the game for them.

Rajeev was resting, lying down on the grass, clutching his hamstring. His face sank at the fall of that wicket, a couple of four letter words came out in a whisper, afer agonisingly falling short again, that elusive KCL win..

Brief Scores
Nagoya 160 All out in 31.3 overs ( Madan 68, Biju Joy 4/24)
Tigers 158 All out in 37.3 overs (Raman 38, Rajeev 47, Akram Raja 4/19)