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Young guns rise to the occasion

On the face of it, Rajasthan's fairytale ride towards their maiden Ranji Trophy crown looks like an outcome of importing three of the most prolific batsmen on the domestic circuit.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2011 01:09 IST
Amol Karhadkar

On the face of it, Rajasthan's fairytale ride towards their maiden Ranji Trophy crown looks like an outcome of importing three of the most prolific batsmen on the domestic circuit. Though Kanitkar, Chopra and Parida did play a crucial role, others, including local cricketers, executed their roles to perfection.

The trio of new-ball bowlers Pankaj Singh and debutant Deepak Chahar along with rookie batsman Ashok Menaria stood out in their memorable sojourn over the last 10 weeks.

Pankaj, Rajasthan's lone man standing for half a dozen years, finally found an able ally in Deepak Chahar who made a sensational debut with a 12-wicket match haul, including eight for 17 in the first innings, against Hyderabad. The duo carried on the momentum with an incredible combined tally of 83 wickets in nine matches.

"When you have a partner who complements you and starts competing with you, it tends to bring the best out of both," Pankaj said.

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For Pankaj's younger partner, though, his maiden first-class season was one to prove he was made up for the "higher level". The reason? During his stint at the Rajasthan Cricket Association's coaching academy two years ago, former India coach Greg Chappell had rejected the bowler.

"I was shortlisted in the initial list of 25. But he rejected me," Chahar said. "So I went up to him and asked him why I wasn't selected. He said I was not made for higher level."

Chahar acknowledged the help of Pankaj and the other seniors. "Right through the season, he (Pankaj) was standing at mid-off, trying to egg me on," said the swing bowler.

While Pankaj and Chahar were wreckers-in-chief, Menaria's innings in the knockouts showed that the left-hander, who led India during the Under-19 World Cup, is a good bat. He suffered a groin injury during the U-19 World Cup that led to a lengthy recovery process. He came back to smash a century each in the quarterfinal against Mumbai, the semifinal against Tamil Nadu and the crucial final against Vadodara.