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Sarfraz drafted in, DDCA divided

The reverse swing bowler from Pakistan has trapped the local cricket establishment on the wrong foot, writes C S Luthra.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2006 14:49 IST

Sarfraz Nawaz, the reverse swing artist from Pakistan, has trapped the local cricket establishment on the wrong foot on the day after his arrival in the Capital on Wednesday, driving a wedge in the already divided DDCA.

Sarfraz has specially been roped in for a week as a bowling consultant to train the Delhi fast bowlers ahead of the Ranji Trophy season, which starts on November 23.

After according him a warm reception immediately after his arrival at the Delhi & District Cricket Association —where nearly all its office-bearers were present in their Sunday best — the former Pakistan speedster was formally handed over the task of transforming the Delhi bowling attack into a world-class act over the next five days.

On the first day of the camp on Thursday, even as the media milled around for a bite and the fast bowlers eagerly lapped up what the Pakistani had to say, the only person who looked completely out of place was the Delhi Ranji coach Chetan Chauhan. It was probably because he was confronted with a completely unexpected situation of the team's preparations.

The pace bowlers were busy training with Sarfraz on an “England-style” wicket - one of the three wickets he had asked the DDCA authorities to prepare, along with an Indian and an Australian pitch - and Chauhan was left with nothing to do in corner of the ground.

“Why have we been called at 10.30 in the morning if we have nothing to do here,” was the obvious question the remaining Delhi players were asking each other. Even Chauhan failed to keep his cool for long. “I should have called the players at 2 in the afternoon if they had to do all this,” he was heard telling Delhi team manager DS Bawa. An uneasy calm ruled the Kotla over the next two hours.

The decision to invite Sarfraz was taken by the DDCA Sports secretary Sunil Dev at a time when Chauhan was in Australia a few days back. It is believed that this was done to undermine Chauhan's position in the Delhi cricket affairs.

The official reason given for calling in Sarfraz so late in the camp was his “pre-occupation in his own country”, but there is more to the story than has been made public. Chauhan himself lodged a strong protest with the DDCA authorities on his arrival from Australia, but was told to keep quiet for the sake of putting up a unanimous front in the presence of the visiting great.

On his part, Sarfraz was absorbed in his assignment right from the word go. Though star bowler Ashish Nehra was absent from the camp as he is expected to join only on Saturday after returning from Kolkata, where he played the Duleep Trophy final for North Zone against Sri Lanka A, the other pace bowlers were made to bowl at the stumps in the middle, with no batsman at the crease.

Sarfraz paid special attention to upcoming speedsters like Ishant Sharma, Pradeep Sangwan and Tushar Pant, who all have been doing well in the various age group tournaments in the last one year. “It was a nice experience to work with such a great bowler. He told me that my head is falling at the time of delivery,” said Ranji player Ishant after the session.

There were a few veteran bowlers - Amit Bhandari, Ashish Malhotra and Mukesh Diwan -present at the nets. Apart from an accurate Malhotra, the rest looked to be struggling with their rhythm --- especially Bhandari, who has started bowling only recently after undergoing a shoulder surgery four months ago.

The Delhi team is scheduled to play two practice games against Rajasthan on Friday and Saturday, and it would not be surprising if Sarfraz finds no time to undertake his second masterclass. The focus of the players will also shift to the two practice games as the final Delhi squad would be announced after the completion of second game.

Sarfraz, though, has promised to transfer all his “secrets” to the Delhi speedsters before returning back to Pakistan. “I've come here to help the Delhi pacers and can promise there would be a difference after just a week.”