India Seniors start poorly
In the first match of the Challenger Series, contrary to what was popularly expected, the India A side managed to defeat the Seniors side
in a tight contest. India 'A' won by one wicket to spare in the last over.Tendulkar's comeback
was brief, lasting barely three overs. Perhaps life has come a full circle. A decade ago, after the first edition of the Challenger Series, Gavaskar wrote that Tendulkar should not play
the tournament in future in order to even things out. In fact, a couple of years later
, he was actually left out of the tournament for personal reasons, although I suspect the fact that he scored two centuries in three games in the previous year's tournament had a lot to do with his being 'rested'.
His opening partner was Irfan Pathan (!) who looked fairly out of touch (and league) as an opener. Kaif, the skipper, contributed little and it was left to Yuvraj and Venugopal Rao
to stem the rot. Yuvraj was out after a breezy half-century. Dhoni and Yadav didn't last long either and the seniors side was 172/6 in the 36th over!
Rao had started slowly and had made 16 off 41 deliveries at one point. In the company of Agarkar, he speeded up the runrate rapidly and his scoring rate also reached run-a-ball. Agarkar capitalized on some bad bowling from the likes of Balaji and Vikram Rajvir Singh
and India Seniors were actually in a good position to post a total around 300. Rao was out in the 49th over for a brilliant 98 and this knock effectively should seal his place in the middle-order
of the one-day side for a while.
India A, led by Laxman, opted not to send in Balaji as an opener. Gambhir and Dheeraj Jadhav
got them off to a solid start, with Dheeraj doing far better than that chap he replaced for the Zimbabwe tour. Gambhir followed his opening partner almost immediately back to the pavillion. The trend of scoring cameos continued as Raina made 19. Laxman and Badani then put on sixty plus for the fourth wicket in nearly 15 overs as the asking rate mounted. But Laxman was run-out (surprise! surprise!) two short of his fifty in the 30th over of the innings. Badani then combined with the promising Niraj Patel and just when it seemed like the senior side was under tremendous pressure, Badani got out in the 39th over with over 90 to get.
Dinesh Karthik put up a great show, scoring 26 in 19 balls and thus indicating to the selectors that he had the ability to play one-dayers, even as the rest of the tailenders kept getting runs. Barring Jai Prakash Yadav, none of the bowlers were able to restrict the scoring and although Powar was out in the 49th over after a breezy 16, trying to attempt one cheeky shot too many, the likes of Pathan and Zaheer were unable to prevent the A team from scoring the fifteen runs with just one wicket remaining. A flurry of boundaries meant that the game was over with two balls to go.
Bowlers of the calibre of Balaji, Zaheer, Pathan and Agarkar had a combined analysis of 32.4-0-229-7. Admittedly the pitch was a typical one-day shirtfront but Rudra Pratap Singh and Jai Prakash Yadav did concede less than 4 runs an over. The fact that India's second (or third, considering Sehwag, Ganguly and Dravid are absent?) string batsmen as well as Venugopal Rao batted purposefully and sensibly was the only positive aspect from the game. The India Seniors side has fared rather poorly in the last few editions and this defeat means today's game against a team of greenhorns led by Dinesh Mongia is a must-win one.