Apr 182014

‘Hyderabad batting lost it in middle overs’

Rajasthan 135 for 6 (Rahane 59, Binny 48*) beat Hyderabad 133 for 6 (Dhawan 38) by four wicketsScorecard and ball-by-ball details

Stuart Binny set to slap the ball, Hyderabad v Rajasthan, Indian T20 league, Abu Dhabi, April 18, 2014Stuart Binny’s unbeaten 48 helped Rajasthan open with a win © BCCI

Hyderabad will be sick of the sight of Australia allrounder James Faulkner. Last year, he took five-wickets hauls in two encounters against Hyderabad, and though this time he didn’t make an impact with the ball, he secured a final-over victory by coolly cracking his first two balls for boundaries. It completed a day where 205 was easily hunted down in the afternoon by Punjab, but Rajasthan huffed and puffed to overhaul 133.

After Glenn Maxwell and Co. had cruised past Chennai’s huge score in the first game of the day, Rajasthan captain Shane Watson had, half-jokingly, said at the toss that he would be happy to chase anything below 200. His team was given a score substantially below 200, but the pursuit was anything but smooth as Hyderabad lived up to their reputation of being tenacious defenders.

Rajasthan sprung a surprise by sending Abhishek Nayar opening, and he began by coaxing the first ball from Dale Steyn through cover for four. That was among the few controlled shots from Rajasthan in the Powerplay as Steyn, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma had the ball swerving around under lights. Nayar was dismissed third ball while Sanju Samson barely middled a ball in his troubled stay before chipping a catch to mid-off in the fourth over.

That brought together the key pair of Watson and Ajinkya Rahane. Bhuvneshwar bowled an outstanding sixth over, beating the bat three times, twice with the ball leaving the batsman and once cutting in. Perhaps it was that pressure that helped Ishant dismiss Watson – who had a strike-rate of 227.77 against him – for the first time in the IPL, leaving Rajasthan at 31 for 3.

Rahane played and missed, had plenty of inside edges and outside edges, was dropped early at first slip, was struck on the helmet by Ishant, but he stuck it out through the difficult phase and kept Rajasthan in the game with a half-century. Even that landmark came through an outside edge to the third-man boundary.

Stuart Binny, the only other Rajasthan batsman to reach double figures, took on the weak link, Darren Sammy, early on but with the asking-rate never too high, he made sure he tucked the ball around to keep the score moving – he had only one dot ball in the final 14 he faced. He found the googlies from the legspinners, Amit Mishra and Karn Sharma, hard to read but his combative 77-run stand with Rahane kept the game tight.

Rahane finally fell in the 16th over, and Rajasthan’s finisher Brad Hodge flailed against spin before perishing for an eight-ball 1. Mishra got both those big scalps, and Hyderabad were sensing a win. Steyn removed Rajat Bhatia, but with eight needed in the final over, Faulkner finished off the game with three deliveries to spare.

Hyderabad’s fancied batting, with a top three reading Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch and David Warner, also had a tough time of it. Though Dhawan and Warner hit 30s, neither could really get going, scoring only at around a run-a-ball. Cameos from KL Rahul and Venugopal Rao took them to 133, though the line-up filled with big-hitters managed only two sixes all innings. Their team mentor, VVS Laxman, felt the total was 20-25 short, but the bowlers made Rajasthan scrap for the win.

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Mar 222014
Injured Nayar out of Deodhar Trophy
Abhishek Nayar sweeps the ball, India A v New Zealand A, 1st unofficial Test, day 3, Visakhapatnam, August 30, 2013

Abhishek Nayar has been replaced by Suryakumar Yadav in the Deodhar Trophy squad © BCCI

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Players/Officials: Abhishek Nayar | Suryakumar Yadav

Allrounder Abhishek Nayar has failed to recover from a left-thumb injury and has been replaced with Mumbai team-mate Suryakumar Yadav in West Zone’s squad for the Deodhar Trophy, to be played at Visakhapatnam from March 23 to 27.

Nayar, who averaged 55 with the bat during the West Zone one-day league for the Ramakant Desai Trophy, was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable campaign for Mumbai. Nayar hurt a ligament in his left thumb while attempting a catch in the tournament, where Mumbai finished in last place.

He was expected to recover in time for the inter-zonal one-day championship but a slow recovery has resulted in him being sidelined from the tournament. Nayar told ESPNcricinfo that he will take “at least a week more” to regain full match-fitness.

Nayar’s injury has presented Yadav, who led Mumbai in the one-dayers, an opportunity to impress the national selectors. West Zone, the defending champions who will be led by India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, open their campaign in the semi-final on March 25. They will face the winner of the quarter-final between Central Zone and East Zone.

Dec 112013
Jaffer to lead Mumbai in place of injured Nayar
Abhishek Nayar celebrates his five-for, Mumbai v Bengal, Ranji Trophy, Group A, Mumbai, 4th day, December 4, 2012

File photo – Abhishek Nayar picked up injuries in Mumbai’s last Group A match against Jharkhand © Fotocorp

Abhishek Nayar, the Mumbai allrounder, will miss the upcoming Ranji game against Odisha after suffering ankle and hip injuries. In his absence, Wasim Jaffer will lead the side.

Earlier this month, Nayar was named Mumbai captain in place of Zaheer Khan, who was picked for the Test squad against South Africa. Nayar led the side in the game against Jharkhand earlier this week, during which he picked up his injury. He was the leading run-scorer for Mumbai in 2012-13 – when the team won the Ranji Trophy title for the 40th time – but has struggled for form this year, scoring 200 runs in five games at an average of 22.22 and has taken eight wickets.

Nayar’s injury isn’t the only concern for Mumbai. Pacer Akbar Khan, who made his debut this season against Vidarbha, has also been ruled out for the Odisha game after fracturing his hand in the match against Jharkhand.

Opener Kaustubh Pawar, who was dropped after a poor run of scores early in the season, has been recalled and Balwinder Singh Jr will replace Akbar Khan. Pacer Dhawal Kulkarni, who injured his toe earlier in the season, will be out of action for another two weeks.

Mumbai, however, are topping Group A with 20 points after six rounds.

Mumbai squad against Odisha: Wasim Jaffer (capt), Aditya Tare (wk), Kaustubh Pawar, Hiken Shah, Suryakumar Yadav, Balwinder Singh Sandhu (jr), Vishal Dabholkar, Siddhesh Lad, Javed Khan, Shardul Thakur, Kshemal Waingankar, Manish Rao, Pravin Tambe, Sagar Kerkar.

Dec 062013
Mumbai pay for going on the defensive

Mumbai have been guilty of being too cautious in the field previously, and on Friday against Jharkhand that tendency cost them

Abhishek Nayar cries in delight after knocking over Doug Bracewell's middle stump, India A v New Zealand A, 2nd unofficial Test, Visakhapatnam, Sep 3, 2013

It would have served Mumbai captain Abhishek Nayar better if he were more aggressive with Jharkhand at 180 for 8 © BCCI

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Jharkhand had collapsed from 144 for 4 to 180 for 8. Despite their four-man attack, excluding Abhishek Nayar, having a collective experience of 25 first-class games, Mumbai had justified their decision to bowl. You would expect the defending champions to fire out the last two wickets of a side promoted from the bottom group. That was what Mumbai sought to do. Only, they gave themselves just one or two deliveries per over to try and dismiss No. 10 Shankar Rao. For, a proper batsman, Saurabh Tiwary, was batting at the other end on a hundred, and there was no way Mumbai were going to set attacking fields for him; it seems modern captaincy prohibits a team from attempting to dismiss the specialist batsman if a tailender is also in the middle.

Tiwary was given a field of up to eight fielders manning the boundary, something that took away the catching positions completely. Even when that number dipped on the rare occasion, it never went below five. Javed Khan, Mumbai’s most successful bowler on the day, said the plan was to give Tiwary the single and go for the tailenders’ wickets. The plan worked superbly, for Tiwary and Jharkhand. Knowing that Mumbai had no interest in targetting him, he duly bashed out 175 from 264 deliveries. Rao rose to the occasion as well. Knowing that a ball or two was all he would have to face every over, he duly blocked everything that came his way. By stumps, Rao had two scoring shots in 64 deliveries, and the partnership had stretched the score to 262.

Apparently, the field had been spread not only because Mumbai wanted Rao on strike, but also because Tiwary was in an attacking mood. Again, the approach played right into Tiwary’s hands. All those boundary riders could only watch as he deposited eight sixes into the stands over their heads. He also hit 17 fours, most of which came in the first two sessions when Mumbai were often getting wickets.

Numbers 7 and 8 threw their wickets away. Had they not, Jharkhand might well have been only six or seven down, for Mumbai had already decided wickets would likely come only from the end opposite to Tiwary’s.

They did try to get him early, when he came in at 13 for 2, with a bouncer barrage. Long-on, deep midwicket, deep square leg, and fine leg. But Tiwary survived. Not only did he survive, he also punished the length when Mumbai overdid it. But Mumbai weren’t going to learn. They had come up with Plan A, and Plan A they were going to persist with through the day.

About the closest the tactic came to success was when Tiwary top-edged a hook which stayed in the air for a while before rolling very fine into the boundary. Buoyed, Mumbai turned to the short ball again and again. And Tiwary kept hooking, pulling or ducking with increasing confidence.

He also farmed the strike superbly, regularly taking a single off the fourth ball of an over. Despite this becoming a pattern for as long as an entire session, captain Nayar did not bring the fielders in to force Tiwary to try harder for that single. The batsman had the entire outfield for the taking, to push or nudge wherever he needed. Mumbai’s stubbornness was absolute when, in the first over with the second new ball, Nayar had six men in the deep for Tiwary.

Nayar is not the only Mumbai captain to turn so defensive in recent times. In the 2011-12 Ranji quarter-final against Madhya Pradesh, Wasim Jaffer had seven men on the boundary for a No. 8 batsman. MP were 171 for 9, but Mumbai were prepared to give No. 8 the single to get at No. 11.

As well as Tiwary and Rao played, the inexperience of Mumbai’s attack also contributed to the home side’s lack of penetration. When your allrounder brings himself on in the 11th over of the match despite having three specialist seamers to choose from, something has to be wrong. While Shardul Thakur went overboard with the short ball, often misdirected, it was the tall left-armer Akbar Khan, playing only his second game, who was the weak link. He bowled only nine, largely unthreatening overs with the first new ball, and none with the second. Nayar sent down as many as 16, and was quite unfortunate to not pick up a wicket or two. When you go so defensive as captain, though, you are setting yourself up for misfortune.

Oct 292013
Tendulkar fifty holds Mumbai hopes

Mumbai 136 and 201 for 6 (Tendulkar 55*, Pawar 47, Mohit 2-65) trail Haryana 134 and 241 by 39 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the applause for his half-century, India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 1st day, December 5, 2012

File photo – The crowd’s loyalties might be tested on the fourth day as Tendulkar gets Mumbai closer and closer © BCCI

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Players/Officials: Sachin Tendulkar
Series/Tournaments: Ranji Trophy | Indian Domestic Season

This match has had everything an Indian first-class match doesn’t. Capacity crowds, a legend playing, extensive security. It would have been a pity had it not produced exciting cricket. The green pitch on a high water table have ensured that people who came only to watch Sachin Tendulkar have been treated to three action-packed days. The advantage has never stayed with one side for too long, and heading into the final day, Mumbai need 39 more, and Tendulkar, batting on 55, is the only specialist batsman left.

Mornings, with the overnight moisture, have been the toughest time to bat here. It is still anybody’s game. The village of Lahli, and the nearby city of Rohtak, could not have asked for a better finish. Haryana can win. Tendulkar can also hit the winning runs. They’ve already watched him make a fifty. It would have been complete paisa vasool, had tickets not been free.

This morning, Harshal Patel managed to push the target for Mumbai to 240. He and Mohit Sharma then gave Ajinkya Rahane and Kaustubh Pawar a torrid time. Wasim Jaffer uncharacteristically tried being too positive too early and perished. Then began the examination. Every now and then, perfectly straightforward looking length deliveries would shoot up alarmingly. The ones that didn’t, would zip past with venom. 

Getting beaten was not a bad outcome for the batsman at all. It was far better than having your gloves pounded, which happened a few times. Mostly, it was Pawar who copped them. Pawar is the doughty kind. He took treatment, did not try to hit out and fought to survive as long as he could. Rahane dealt with the challenge in his own way. Big stride forward, tight defence, solid pushes into gaps, and confident leaves. 

Rahane and Pawar battled through till after lunch. They had done the dirty work. But this wasn’t the pitch where you could cash in after a morning survival. Both fell in their forties, Pawar to the tireless Mohit. Rahane was bowled by the offspin of Jayant Yadav, making way for the moment the crowd had waited for, largely with patience.

The prolonged, standing ovation was to be expected for Tendulkar, as was the guard of honour the Haryana players gave him. Some of the Haryana players even kept saluting the man as he walked between the two rows they had formed for him. They were met with a half-raised bat in acknowledgment. Tendulkar proceeded to touch the pitch and then his helmet with his gloves in his own show of respect, and buckled down to the task at hand.

They might have saluted him but Haryana were giving him no leeway with the ball. Mohit put in an outstanding effort, going on and on through the middle session. Tendulkar appeared quite focused, though, and after the initial few jitters, went on to play a calculated, intelligent innings, in the manner that has been the highlight of his later years. 

He left superbly against the fast bowlers. The front-foot stride was big and certain, as was the defence. What stood out, though, were the back-foot punches through cover off the quicks. Had this been an ODI outfield, he would have had several boundaries. It didn’t matter how hard Mohit ran in. Tendulkar had enough time for the shot on this pitch. Once he even tried to steer a bouncer that was flying past his head over the keeper, but missed. He was ready with the sweep against the offspinner, who had a couple of loud shouts for lbw turned down. 

He played the percentage shots well, as VVS Laxman said he had started to as he grew older. The tuck to square leg produced several singles and twos. He was ready for sprinted singles to mid-on too, hardly ever in danger of falling short of his ground.

With Tendulkar in so much control, Haryana did well to keep up the discipline. Runs seldom came in clumps, and when they did on occasion, Haryana tightened up further immediately. The fielding was sharp, dives and slides plenty, the captain Ajay Jadeja leading the way at age 42.

Mumbai gave in to the squeeze at the end opposite to Tendulkar. Abhishek Nayar tried to bulldoze a drive out of nowhere and played on. Aditya Tare managed to run himself out, a freak direct hit from the deep midwicket boundary caught him napping on the third run. Hiken Shah tried to counter with more aggression, only to badly mis-hit a loopy drive off Mohit to mid-off.

Tendulkar and the mostly reliable Dhawal Kulkarni guided Mumbai past 200. Apart from them, Mumbai don’t have much left. The Lahli crowd does not need the rest at all. It has been a fabulously sporting crowd till now. As Tendulkar gets Mumbai closer and closer, their loyalties might just be tested. Then again, if he hits the winning runs, they might not mind it.

Oct 272013
Mumbai ahead, but Tendulkar fails

Mumbai 100 for 4 (Rahane 44*) trail Haryana 134 (Mohit 49, Nayar 4-38) by 34 runs

Sachin Tendulkar walks out at the Eden Gardens, India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 1st day, December 5, 2012

File photo: The crowds came for Sachin Tendulkar, but his short stay at the crease proved rather anti-climatic © BCCI

Haryana had begun their previous season with totals of 55 and 66, and cricket fans around the country were wishing for something similar after Mumbai chose to field in Lahli. The Sachin Tendulkar retirement juggernaut had turned what would have been another anonymous first-class match, into the most anticipated Ranji game in decades.

The massive Sunday crowd were thrilled as the home side were shot out for 134, but were disappointed when Tendulkar lasted just seven deliveries, with most of the fans heading home once he was dismissed, a scene not too dissimilar from that of the 1990s when India’s fate hinged on his wicket.

They didn’t stick around to see two of Mumbai’s most dependable batsmen, Abhishek Nayar and Ajinkya Rahane, ensure the team didn’t lose the initiative provided by the bowlers on a greenish Lahli track. It wasn’t the easiest of surfaces to bat on, and Mohit Sharma in particular posed plenty of problems.

The 56-run stand between Rahane and Nayar stabilised Mumbai after the quick losses of Tendulkar and Wasim Jaffer, and the dearth of runs didn’t highlight the importance of the partnership in what is shaping as a low-scoring encounter.

Nayar was dismissed shortly before close for 24, ending a day in which he had once again contributed with bat and ball. In the morning, he nipped out four lower middle-order wickets with his steady medium-pace as Haryana tumbled towards yet another sub-100 total. Before Nayar, the quicker bowlers had shared the spoils to run through Haryana’s fragile top order.

In any other match, the return of Ajay Jadeja from an almost seven-year first-class hibernation would have dominated headlines. Here, it was a sidelight to the Tendulkar show. Jadeja didn’t fare too much better than Tendulkar, falling for just 14.

From 71 for 8, it took some swinging from Mohit to help Haryana past 100, and he fell short of a deserved maiden half-century by one run when he was trapped lbw by left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar. He was outstanding with the ball as well, but couldn’t prevent Mumbai from ending the day in a strong position.

Oct 092013
Abhishek Nayar skittles out Windies A

HUBLI: India ‘A’ pacers Abhishek Nayar (4-61) and Dhawal Kulkarni (3-60) called the shots as West Indies ‘A’ were skittled for 268 in 77.4 overs on the first day of the third and final unofficial Test here on Wednesday.Positioned at a relatively comfor…

Oct 092013
Not giving easy boundaries helped: Nayar

Nayar’s four-wicket haul helped India A restrict the visitors to 268 all out in their first innings of the third unofficial Test Series

Not giving easy boundaries helped: Nayar (© PTI)


Hubli: All-rounder Abhishek Nayar, who led his team’s bowling attack with a four-wicket haul, said not giving too many boundaries to the West Indies A batsmen helped India A restrict the visitors to 268 all out in their first innings of the third unofficial Test Series here on Wednesday.

“We had a meeting during the lunch break. They were going great guns and only thing was to restrict and not give away easy boundaries. They were playing aggressive shots rather than playing patiently,” he told reporters at the end of the first day’s play of third unofficial Test here.

Asked what went through his mind when WI A were surging ahead with 175 for three at tea, Kulkarni said he adopted aggressive approach towards the batsmen and didn’t think about taking wickets.

On his performance, Kulkarni said it could have been better if he had ended with a five-for figure.

Talking about the pitch, Kulkarni said the wicket was initially doing a bit but slowed down as the day’s game progressed. “The only thing was to stick to the basics and bowl proper line and length,” he added.

He also denied that the ball was reversing because it had gone soft on a slow pitch.

“The only thing to do was hit the ball as hard as I could (to get some purchase out of it),” the Mumbaikar said.

Replying to a query, Kulkarni said the first aim of the team would be to play out the initial overs and score as many as possible when the overnight batsmen V A Jagadeesh and Gautam Gambhir resume their innings tomorrow.

“We are playing positively and looking to win the match (and level the series 1-1),” he said.

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