With good luck balloons and a round of firecrackers accompanying the band who played through the morning at the Motibagh ground, the opening day of the Ranji Trophy final was expected to see lot of explosive action on the field.
Though a cautious approach by Baroda and Rajasthan meant there were hardly any crackers on the playfield, one bombshell made up for it. And it wasn’t a towering six or a copybook drive or an unplayable in swinger.
The first ball of the second session saw Rajasthan opener Vineet Saxena mistime a cover drive off Murtuja Vahora. and the ball rolled towards mid-on off the inside edge.
Glaring at the ball once, Saxena came back into the crease and went gardening, knocking the wicket and waving at the square-leg umpire K Hariharan after taking a couple of steps outside the crease to indicate he was leaving his crease.
While the bowler turned around to head back to the top of his run up, Bhargav Bhatt at mid-on was about to collect the ball. Sensing an opportunity, Baroda wicketkeeper-captain Pinal Shah prompted Bhatt to knock the stumps down at the striker’s end and the fielder didn’t miss.
A loud run out appeal took both the umpires - neither of whom appeared to have seen Saxena’s gesture - by surprise. And after consulting
third umpire Shamsuddin whether the batsman was in the
crease when he gestured to Hariharan, the square-leg umpire and his colleague at the other end Shavir Tarapore decided to uphold the appeal.
The laws of cricket were certainly followed but was it at the cost of the spirit of the game? Rajasthan skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar who was dumbstruck watching it unfold from the other end criticised his counterpart.
“I’d have never claimed that dismissal,” he said after the day’s play. Shah retorted saying it wasn’t a “planned move”. “I saw him (Saxena) walking out of the crease and I thought the ball was in play, so it was worth taking the gamble,” he said.
Will the episode start a series of ugly incidents in the high-pro file final?