Kunal Diwan

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Blog Posts by Kunal Diwan

  • Eyes on stars and strugglers at Irani Cup

    Sehwag leads a powerful Rest of India squad against the Ranji champions at the Wankhede Stadium.

    Chance for Sehwag, Harbhajan et all to make amends before the Australia series.

    ALSO SEE: Raina eyes Test comeback | Agarkar out with injury

    MUMBAI: Discards and perpetual outsiders will gain another chance to catapult themselves into national reckoning as Ranji Trophy winners Mumbai take on a strong Rest of India side for the Irani Cup at the Wankhede Stadium, beginning Wednesday.

    This will be second Irani Cup game this season, a move necessitated by a new schedule that dictates the tie to be held at the conclusion of the domestic season rather than at its commencement. Rest of India had thrashed last-year’s Ranji winners Rajasthan by an innings at Bangalore in September, the beginning of the domestic calendar.

    In this edition, Rest will be led by Virender Sehwag – currently out of ODIs for India – and include names such as  off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and fast bowler S. Sreesanth, both of whom would be pressing hard for a decent performance that pushes their case for representing the country.

    COMEBACK CALL

    After being sidelined for the England ODIs, Sehwag will be Read More »from Eyes on stars and strugglers at Irani Cup
  • Mumbai Diary - Day 3

    Sidelights from the Mumbai vs Saurashtra Ranji Trophy final at the Wankhede

    Sachin Tendulkar and Ajit Agarkar hold aloft the Ranji Trophy. Picture by Skandan Sampath, Yahoo! Cricket

    Sticky no more

    Shitanshu Kotak's superglue methods at the crease appeared to have evaporated when Saurashtra needed them most. The veteran stonewaller chased a leg-side wide to be caught behind off just the third ball he faced in the second innings, a dismissal quite unbecoming of a man of his patience. What was worse that this may have been the 40-year-old’s last Ranji game. Kotak presently sits four tantalizing runs away from a first class tally of 8,000 – a record he may not get another chance to achieve.

    Inglorious record

    0050697. This is what Saurashtra’s second innings scorecard read from the top down. Reared on the infamous flat track at Rajkot, the batsmen found themselves all at sea on a juicy pitch at the Wankhede Stadium. At one stage, the visitors threatened to collapse for below 21 – the lowest score in Ranji Trophy – before managing to heave across that line and finishing on 82, to go with the 148 in the first essay. Certainly not the most ideal way to perform in their Read More »from Mumbai Diary - Day 3
  • Mumbai humble Saurashtra in Ranji Trophy final for Title No. 40

    Visitors lose by an innings and 125 runs at Wankhede.

    Mumbai team with their 40th Ranji Trophy title. (Photo: Skandan Sampath/Yahoo! Cricket)

    Mumbai:
    A terrifying display of fast bowling handed Mumbai their 40th Ranji Trophy in great haste as Saurashtra crumpled under pressure at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday. It was a premature end to a heavily lop-sided match. The visitors, beginning their second innings 207 behind, were shot out for 82 in just 36.3 overs, leaving Mumbai massive winners by an innings and 125 runs well within the third day itself.

    Medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni (5/32) and skipper Ajit Agarkar (4/15) and were the principal wreckers. Agarkar removed both the openers – Shitanshu Kotak and Sagar Jogiyani – and first innings half-centurion Aarpit Vasavada for a blob apiece. Kulkarni accounted for Rahul Dave (5), captain Jaydev Shah (6) and the dangerous Sheldon Jackson (9) to ensure there was no fightback whatsoever.

    Even Mumbai would have been surprised at the degree of Saurashtra’s capitulation and for a while, at 20/6, it appeared that the lowest-ever total in the Ranji Trophy was in danger of being Read More »from Mumbai humble Saurashtra in Ranji Trophy final for Title No. 40
  • Record-breaking Jaffer piles on agony for Saurashtra

    Ranji Trophy Final: Wasim helped Mumbai gain a healthy 139-run lead against Saurashtra at the Wankhede.

    Wasim Jaffer (File Photo)

    Mumbai:
    Veteran opener Wasim Jaffer rode his luck to break a series of records as Mumbai took the all-important first innings lead against Saurashtra on the second day of the Ranji Trophy final. Jaffer’s fortune-kissed 132 placed the home team on 287/6 at close of play, 139 ahead of Saurashtra, the game firmly in the 39-time champions’ grasp.

    During the course of his knock, the 34-year-old Jaffer displaced Amol Muzumdar as the leading accumulator in Ranji Trophy history and also surpassed 16,000 first class runs.  Jaffer’s 32nd century also moved him ahead of Ajay Sharma on the list of batsmen with most hundreds in India’s top domestic competition.

    The centurion featured in three partnerships of over fifty and by the time he was out – ironically to a poor leg-before verdict – midway through the last session, Mumbai were in command despite a flurry of dismissals towards close.

    Testing first hour

    Mumbai resumed on 19/0 and endured a testing opening spell by left-arm fast  bowler Jaydev Read More »from Record-breaking Jaffer piles on agony for Saurashtra
  • Mumbai Diary - Day 2

    Sidelights from the Ranji Trophy final between Mumbai and Saurashtra at the Wankhede.

    Games galore

    Mild disorientation leads to a frank tizzy with the start of the Australian Open final, which is sputtering as grainy pictures on my laptop. This means I currently have live access to three contests, aside from the Ranji Trophy final unfolding before my eyes. There’s the tennis. There’s the India-England ODI on a TV ahead. Then there’s a makeshift stick-cricket match between journalists to my back. That all four are providing their own sweet audio almost leads me into a fugue state; still I choose to tune into – at least subconsciously – the entire experience on offer, doing justice, as usual, to neither.

    Strange ways

    Online fora are abuzz with Cheteshwar Pujara missing out on yet another chance for an ODI debut. Not released to play the Ranji Trophy final for Saurashtra, Pujara is widely expected to feature in the dead fifth ODI against England at Dharamsala. Imagine his shock when he finds himself warming the bench again. At least Ravindra Jadeja is getting games in Indian

    Read More »from Mumbai Diary - Day 2
  • Mumbai in control of Ranji final

    Day 1: Dhawal Kulkarni takes four wickets on a helpful Wankhede track to destroy Saurashtra for 148

    Dhawal Kulkarni (File photo)MUMBAI: It was obvious within the first session of play on Saturday that this Ranji Trophy final too would go the way 39 previously have. That way is Mumbai’s. At their stronghold, the Wankhede Stadium, the home team, having dismantled half of Saurashtra by lunch, scuttled the visitors out for 148 after sending them in on a pitch with some decent moisture-aided movement and carry.

    Mumbai were 19 without loss at close, the track having eased out and the stage set for yet another title triumph. Medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni was the pick of the bowlers, jolting the visitors in a troubling first spell and finishing the day with 4/24. All-rounder Abhishek Nayar gained his team crucial breakthroughs late in the second session, and left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar benefitted from
    the pressure that Kulkarni imposed with two wickets of his own.

    Only the bespectacled Aarpit Vasavada, who replaced his skipper Jaydev Shah at No.4, contributed a fighting half-century, as Saurashtra’s
    reliance on their

    Read More »from Mumbai in control of Ranji final
  • Mumbai Diary - Day 1

    Sidelights from the Ranji Trophy final between Mumbai and Saurashtra at the Wankhede


    Missing out

    Young Saurashtra off-spinner Vishal Joshi must be wondering what he did wrong. The 23-year-old was Man of the Match in the semi-final against Punjab with a nine-wicket haul and would have hoped to play in the final against Mumbai. But a seaming track at the Wankhede Stadium moved captain Jaydev Shah to drop Joshi for medium pacer Saurya Sanandiya, as left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja and off-spinning all-rounder Kamlesh Makvana held their places. Considering the plight of Saurashtra’s batting, no amount of bowling reinforcements would have saved them the day.

    Voluntary demotion

    A wicket fell. Then another, and then another. But still no signs of
    Jaydev Shah emerged from the dressing room. The Saurashtra skipper,
    who normally bats at No.4, dropped himself down the order, possibly on
    account of difficult conditions. The bespectacled Aarpit Vasavada was
    bumped up, as was the prolific Sheldon Jackson, and Shah walked out
    only after the fall of the fourth wicket. Staying away from

    Read More »from Mumbai Diary - Day 1
  • 'Saurashtra not an easy opponent'

    Ranji Trophy Final: Mumbai skipper Ajit Agarkar said they would be fools to underestimate the rivals.

    Mumbai: At the helm of a side with an unmatched, abiding Ranji Trophy legacy, Ajit Agarkar is not belittling the challenge that outsiders Saurashtra pose in what would be Mumbai’s 44th final. The domestic giants have won India’s premier competition 39 times and look favourites to add another title against an outfit playing its first summit clash, at the Wankhede Stadium, beginning on Saturday.

    But skipper Agarkar said on the eve of the contest that they would be fools to underestimate the rivals.

    "It's a one-off game and we need to be at our best. Whoever performs better these five days will take the honours. Any team that makes the final cannot be an easy opponent,” he said.

    Agarkar: Lucky to have Sachin
    'Wish Pujara and Jadeja were here'
    Ranji final hit by scheduling woes
    Y! Cricket Special: Revisiting Ranji


    Agarkar struck a rare, vital century – just his fourth in First Class cricket – against Services in the semi-final, to resurrect Mumbai from a dicey situation. Notwithstanding that

    Read More »from 'Saurashtra not an easy opponent'
  • Delhi Diary - 4

    The Sachin decoy, a fisticuff and a friend of Arjun Tendulkar.

    The decoy exits the Palam Cricket Ground.

    FLARE UP


    A flare up, unfortunately not on the field, although almost as interesting. A Services team official has a strong opinion on the work culture of sports hacks. Asked to arrange for a plug-point to charge laptops, he dismisses the request because he considers most journos to be good-for-nothing chit-chats. “You wiled away the whole morning and remember that you needed a plug-point only now?” A physical altercation is avoided as well-meaning personnel intervene, but the incident caps a most troublesome week for those entrusted with reporting on the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Mumbai and Services.

    “I’ll make sure your ground gets an ‘F’ from the match referee,” hollers the offended man of letters. Another incensed opinion maker is aggravated enough to leave his place in the sun and shake a threatening finger at the causative Government servant.  This situation too fizzles out — a most unfortunate turn of events — without blows exchanged. Can’t have it all, yo!

    DEADLY DECOY

    A grey

    Read More »from Delhi Diary - 4
  • Services' Swain makes a mark in tough game

    The stand-in captain made 74 to raise hopes of upsetting Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy semifinal.

    Sowmya Ranjan Swain showing the battle scars earned while fielding at point.

    NEW DELHI: Services stand-in skipper Sowmya Ranjan Swain compiled a fighting 74 against Mumbai to give hope to his team for an unlikely upset. He partnered Yashpal Sharma for 114 runs for the fourth wicket, but the quick dismissals of both batsmen on the final morning deflated the home side.

    Swain has been described as an ‘attacking batsman who goes for his shots’ by Services' coach Deepak Bhaskar, although he’s done nothing of note this season aside from an unbeaten century versus Himachal Pradesh. Our current interest in him has more to do with his replacing the valiant Soumik Chatterjee as captain in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Mumbai.

    Was the 25-year-old up to the task of assuming responsibility for such a crucial game?

    “I enjoy captaincy. I play more responsibly when I’m leading the side. I captained Services in the Gold Cup in Dehradun last year and had a run of good scores. I made about 250 in five innings. Helming the team has a calming effect on the way I bat.”

    Swain had

    Read More »from Services' Swain makes a mark in tough game

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