New Delhi: Poor form of some of the senior batsmen coupled with a complete breakdown of trust between players, administrators, and selectors crippled Delhi’s controversy-ridden Ranji Trophy campaign.
The long-lasting friction began much before Delhi’s first home match, and Gautam Gambhir’s team eventually failed to progress beyond the first round; it finished fifth in Group A. One of the main reasons why the players and administrators/selectors pulled different directions was the venue for the four home matches. Gambhir wanted a pacer-friendly pitch as they had some good pacers led by Ashish Nehra, but the DDCA’s chief curator reportedly insisted that they would have to play on whatever surface he would prepare. It led to bad blood and their differences continued.
Declined the ‘home advantage’, Delhi played at Roshanara Club where the conditions, felt Gambhir and the team management, would suit the strength of the team, pace bowlers. Out of three matches played there, Delhi won two and lost to Punjab, a defeat that would rankle for a long time the Nehra-led attack had dismantled them for a mere 74 in the first innings.
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That was not all. Selection of players also raised a prolonged controversy and that too must have fragmented the team. Particularly, Gambhir successfully insisted on picking ‘outsider’ pacer Navdeep Saini, who apparently belongs to Haryana, to add teeth to Delhi’s bowling attack, but the decision only antagonised many people within the DDCA. The selectors eventually had to buckle down reluctantly after Gambhir and some senior players apparently threatened to pull out of the matches.
"Delhi’s performance was disappointing. Much was expected of the two international stars – Sehwag and Gambhir – but unfortunately they couldn’t get going,” Chetan Chauhan, chairman of the selection committee, told MAIL TODAY. "The main reason [ of Delhi’s failure to qualify for quarterfinals] was that, barring Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia, the batting didn’t come good, except a couple of matches. I’m sure, Sehwag must be very disappointed,” rued the former India Test opener.
“But these things happen once in a lifetime. It was just bad luck.”
Sehwag managed 234 runs in 13 innings, but Gambhir, despite the adversity, emerged as the batsman with the highest run tally (578), including one century and three half-centuries. Manhas was barely behind Gambhir with a tally of 573.
Chauhan feels Sehwag was confused as to whether to open or bat in the middle order. Being the chief selector he would know better than the most. In terms of talent and potential, Delhi were at par with many other teams of the country, but they were clearly not in the right frame of mind throughout the season because of the circumstances under which the team played.
Nineteen players turned out in seven Delhi matches, with one match, against Jharkhand, being abandoned due to rains in Jamshedpur.
That match, from which each the team got one point, eventually proved decisive for Delhi, along with the encounter against hosts Mumbai, where both teams scored an identical 324 in their first innings. That meant that they got one point each.
Questions are also being raised about Gambhir’s captaincy. But his backers point out that Delhi last won the Ranji Trophy five years ago under his stewardship in 2007-08.
Delhi can wipe out some of the Ranji stains by performing well in the inter-state one-day matches beginning next month so as to qualify for the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.