“I am from Chennai. I am an ocean boy,” chuckled Abhinav Mukund as a senior scribe enquired if he can swim, alluding to the giant puddles on the covers and outfield.
India Red, however, would need Mukund’s batting skills more than his swimming prowess after Gautam Gambhir-led India Blue got off to a steady, wicket-less start in the second match of Duleep Trophy.
‘I am sure we can bounce back when play starts tomorrow,” he said.
Skipper Gambhir led from the front with an unbeaten 51-run knock while Mayank Agarwal was batting on 53 when rains forced the game to be called off after just 34.2 overs of day’s play was possible.
It was, however, not all hunky dory with Blue as both the openers rode their luck on multiple occasions. While Agarwal was caught by Nathu Singh off his own bowling-on a no-ball, Gambhir survived a dropped chance off Singh and a close LBW shout off the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav. In between, Pradeep Sangwan induced an outside edge from Gambhir, but the ball fell short of first slip.
“They could have easily been 100 for 1 or 100 for 2,” rued the southpaw, man-of-the-match in the first tie against India Green.
“But credit to them (India Blue). I think they batted really well,” he added.
“We expected the track to offer some early seam and swing, considering that it was watered yesterday (Sunday). Sadly, that didn’t happen. I think the track slowed down after the initial 10-12 overs.”
None of India Red’s three pacers - Nathu Singh, Pradeep Sangwan and Ishwar Pandey- could extract any help from the surface. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who returned his best match figures in first class cricket of 9 for 120 in the previous, struggled with his length and was guilty of dropping too short. Off-spinner Akshay Wakhare was also ineffective, and by tea, skipper Yuvraj Singh had to bring himself to bowl.
Gambhir has stacked his side with six international players, and his batting order is fully capable of building on the century-plus opening stand. Each of the top-seven, including off-spinning all-rounder Parvez Rasool, average at least 38 with bat, with four of them having scored a minimum of one double hundred in first-class cricket.
Mukund, who himself averages a healthy 47.93 and has a triple ton to his name, would surely have his task cut out on a track that may, after generous rain, offer movement off the seam and in the air. With India internationals Pankaj Singh and Mohit Sharma to contend with, India Red will surely look to their ‘ocean boy’ to wade them through of troubled waters.