CHENNAI: Things seemed to be going Saurashtra’s way in Rajkot after they elected to bat in the Ranji Trophy final against Bengal on Monday. A total of 155 for two at tea and top guns still to come, it seemed a perfect start for the team which lost in the finals thrice in the last seven years. That’s when the game started changing.
Bengal’s tireless quick bowlers found their hard work getting rewarded, Saurashtra lost three wickets including one right at the end of the day and significantly, Cheteshwar Pujara walked off complaining of illness when the team needed him. Coming into bat at No 6, the Test star faced 24 balls and made five before retiring hurt. Saurashtra ended the day at 206 for five.
Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) president Jaydev Shah said there is not much to worry about Pujara. “He complained of having fever, body ache and felt uneasy. That’s why he came off. Our team doctor has seen him and we are thinking that it has happened because of change in climate considering that he has just returned from New Zealand. He is expected to resume batting tomorrow,” the former Saurashtra captain told this daily from Rajkot.
Shah added that Pujara was normal when he took part in the team’s practice at the SCA Stadium a day before the match. “There was nothing unusual on Sunday when the team had nets,” he informed. Pujara was in good spirits a day before final and was seen posing for photographs with Wriddhiman Saha, who was also with the Indian team in New Zealand.
However, things started looking odd once the match got going. India’s No 3 didn’t come out to bat in his customary position. That was not completely unusual, considering that Pujara had batted at No 4 in last year’s Ranji final as well, behind Vishvaraj Jadeja, who was at No 3 on Monday again. But to see him walk in at No 6 suggested that all may not be well.
“He was seen by doctors after coming off the ground. It’s a regular throat problem and he has complained of mild headache as well. The doctors are of the opinion that he should be fine with some rest. The symptoms he has shown are not alarming and we are expecting him to bat tomorrow,” said SCA secretary Himanshu Shah.Members of the Bengal teem didn’t seem perturbed with Pujara’s physical condition either. “We have heard that he has fever. Nothing more.
We are not reading anything into it,” said a member of the Bengal contingent. Expecting Pujara to recover, Saurashtra would also be hoping to cope better with the Bengal fast bowlers, who gave little away on a pitch that looked flat in the first two sessions. But they kept working to a plan, bowled an outside off line to left and right-handers and picked up three wickets in the final session. Brief scores: Saurashtra 206/5 in 80.5 ovs (Barot 54, V Jadeja 54, Akash Deep 3/41) vs Bengal.
Thumbs down for pitch
Bengal coach Arun Lal rated the pitch for their Ranji Trophy final against Saurashtra as “very poor” and said the BCCI should probe how such a sub-standard surface was prepared for the big game. “Very poor wicket. The board has to look into things like these. The ball is not coming up. This is not good for cricket. The ball is not getting off, it is dusting, reversing. Very poor,” Lal said on Monday.