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A different ball game altogether

chandigarh Updated: Apr 23, 2012 13:29 IST
Kaushik Chatterji
ranji trophy


One comes from Gujarat but represents Haryana in the Ranji Trophy; the other hails from the national capital. Both picked 28 wickets in the last season of the premier domestic competition; soon after, they were picked up by different IPL franchises.

The twain met 25 games into the season, at Mohali. Having bowled a miserly spell against Pune at the venue, Delhi boy Parvinder Awana, who was also the highest wicket-taker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, was given a second shot by Punjab.

Bangalore, struggling to find a domestic pacer, persisted with Harshal Patel despite his previous expensive returns. In the end, Patel failed to get his line right, and even though Awana struck thrice early in the visitors' chase, he proved ineffective against Chris Gayle until it was too late.

Wickets in first class and List A matches of 2011/12 taken together, Awana was second only to Ashok Dinda, the wiry Bengal pacer who has been a revelation for Pune.

Other than Dinda and, to a certain extent, Awana, it is tough to put a finger on a leading domestic bowler who carried that form into the IPL. In his only match for Deccan Chargers, the Madhya Pradesh Ranji paceman TP Sudhindra was blasted into oblivion; Rajasthan pacer Pankaj Singh has proved expensive, as has RCB spinner KP Appanna.

These performances belie the "downward compatibility" theory, that someone who has the skills needed for duration cricket can automatically scale it down. Temperament aside -playing in front of big crowds can be unnerving even for the most skilled of the lot -Bangalore bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad feels it is mostly a question of adaptability: "It's all about the mindset, and how quickly you adapt to the format."

The former India pacer, who had an effective slower ball in his repertoire, says bowlers need to use variations sparingly in T20, to maintain the element of surprise. "There's a tendency of trying to do too much," says Prasad.

"Bowlers need to be smart, not oversmart. As it is, the margin of error is very less in T20s, so instead of trying to change the line and length with every delivery and constantly experimenting with the slow bouncers and the wide yorkers, they should stick to basics and bowl to their strengths."

While the bowlers can still blame T20's bias towards the blade, the batsmen don't really have any excuse. The top domestic run-getters, though, have had to contend with a different problem - lack of faith.

Purists insist that strong fundamentals, so essential in Tests, can be put to use to score quickly in the shortest version too. "To see how conventional cricket also works in IPL, one needs to go back a couple of seasons and see how Sachin fared," says former India opener WV Raman.

But franchises are clearly putting their money on the big-hitters, which explains why someone like Vineet Saxena, despite having nearly 900 runs against his name, missed out on an IPL contract due to a strike rate of below 40; or why Ranji chart-topper Robin Bist is warming Delhi's benches.

Again, one has to make the most of an opportunity. Suryakumar Yadav, who scored heavily for Mumbai, got his shot when Tendulkar got injured. But in his only innings for MI, Yadav fell for a fourth-ball duck.

The top run-getters of Ranji Trophy are either unsigned or warming the dugout benches:

Robin Bist
Ranji Elite: 1034 runs @ 46.51
IPL V (DD): Yet to play

Vineet Saxena
Ranji Elite: 897 @ 39.51
IPL V: Unsigned

Abhinav Mukund
Ranji Elite: 872 @ 60.76
IPL V (CSK): Yet to play

Except Dinda, the highest domestic wicket-takers have looked hapless with the ball:

TP Sudhindra
Ranji Elite: 40 wkts @ 18.7
IPL V (DC): 1 match, 1/46

Pankaj Singh
Ranji Elite: 34 wkts @ 30.32
IPL V (RR): 2 matches, 2/55

Harshal Patel
Ranji Elite: 28 wkts @ 21.57
IPL V (RCB): 4 matches, 3/129