Rain, rain, go away, come again another day,
The Indian domestic giants want to play
This must have been the refrain of most teams in the recently-concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy (VHT). In the end, Karnataka emerged the winners in a rain-truncated final against Tamil Nadu (TN). However, rather than the quality of cricket, the rules and rain hogged the limelight this season.
The extended monsoon across the country did cast a shadow over the tournament. Most of the matches in the league phase, especially for Elite Group A and Group B had to be rescheduled. Even after they were rescheduled, many games were shortened affairs. Some results were more like a lottery.
The rain continued to play havoc during the knockouts, along with some contentious playing conditions. Mumbai and Punjab found themselves at the wrong end of the bargain in the quarter-finals. Both teams were looking in control when rain stopped their contests against Chhattisgarh and TN respectively. The conditions stipulated that more wins in the league phase would decide the winner in an abandoned game. Accordingly, Chhattisgarh and TN progressed to the semis. The Punjab team was extremely gutted as they practically couldn’t have won more games than TN in the league phase. This was due to the unequal number of games — TN played nine and Punjab, eight. TN meanwhile was on a roll this season.
Led by the indefatigable Dinesh Karthik, TN was the team to beat in VHT this year. Baba Aparajith and Abhinav Mukund piled on the runs in the league phase. When they didn’t fire, Karthik, along with M Shahrukh Khan finished off in style. The batting was ably complemented by the bowling. The two Ashwins, Murugan and Ravichandran ably supported seamer M Mohammed in choking opposition units. However, TN’s plans came undone by a blistering spell from Abhimanyu Mithun in the finals.
The ex-India international was leading Karnataka’s bowling unit in the absence of veteran R Vinay Kumar, who’d joined Puducherry earlier this season as a player-mentor. Mithun scythed through the TN side with a 5-34, which included a hat-trick. His spell ensured that TN ended with a below-par score — never enough to test Karnataka’s star-studded batting unit.
Karnataka possessed a dream batting line-up this season, replete with India stars. KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair combined to present, arguably, Indian domestic cricket’s strongest batting line-up in recent seasons. However, the star of their show was Devdutt Padikkal.
In his debut List A season, the left-handed opening batsman raked up 609 runs at an average of 67.66. Along with Rahul, he often gave Karnataka, rousing starts. Observers feel that India will hear more about this latest addition to Karnataka’s batting machine. Mumbai’s Yashasvi Jaiswal is another batsman whom India will hear about more in the coming days.
Jaiswal became the youngest batsman to score a double hundred in List A cricket when he smashed a 154-ball 203 against Jharkhand. It was his third century in the tournament. Rain robbed the southpaw of another ton in the quarters and perhaps Mumbai, of a podium finish. He was the second double-centurion this season after Kerala’s Sanju Samson. Samson had broken the record for the highest individual score in VHT’s history when he smashed 212* against Goa earlier.
Gujarat’s Rush Kalaria and Mithun were the shining lights in the bowling department. Kalaria was remarkably consistent with his accurate left-arm medium- pace. Regularly chipping away with wickets, he ended the tournament with 21 scalps at an economy of 3.95 runs per over. He could be looked at as an option for the middle overs in India’s ODI set-up.
After a slow start, Mithun peaked towards the end. In Vinay Kumar’s absence, he capably shepherded Karnataka’s attack to finish as the ‘Player of the series’. Are we seeing Mithun 2.0? Too soon to say, but it seems that he’s getting back his mojo.