Chaos at the bottom means order at the top, order at the bottom means chaos at the top. In the ongoing Ranji Trophy final, however, there is neither, with ‘chaos’ being the major talking point from even before the first ball was bowled at Rajkot, even before Bengal and Saurashtra locked horns.
Such was it’s influence on the proceedings, and it all started with a simple schedule. BCCI, somehow, miraculously decided that the Ranji Trophy encounter, the final will start on Monday, a weekday. Everything seemed to be right on point until the person has a glance over the semi-final schedule. Both the games - Saurashtra vs Gujarat; Bengal vs Karnataka both started on Saturday, which went on till Wednesday. However, when it came to the final, the day it mattered after five months of the intense domestic season, they decided to start it on a weekday. Now once that is swept aside, we move on to the next decision that has started a rapid ‘meltdown.’
Before the final, the limited-DRS was always a very questionable decision, with not adept technology to give the right decision in the absence of the snickometer and hawkeye. And, the players knew that it was going to play a big part in the final. When Cheteshwar Pujara did not walk out to bat at No.3, there were questions raised as to whether it was a strategic decision on behalf of the Saurashtra camp.
However, after play on Day one, it was revealed that Pujara was suffering from throat infection which did not help him sustain on the pitch. It was not only Pujara, who was unfit to bat on day 1 but also the pitch, according to Bengal’s coach Arun Lal. In just the first day, the pitch was doing all sorts of things - low bounce, uneven swing and after a point no real substance for the bowlers. Has the pitch been overused? He further ripped apart the BCCI for terming the conditions not suitable for a game of ‘cricket,’ which in all due was how it was on Day 1.
“Very poor wicket. The board has to look into things like these. The ball is not coming up. This is not good for cricket. The ball is not getting off, it is dusting, reversing. Very poor,” Lal said after play on Day 1, reported Hindustan Times.
On Day Two, he returned first up, trudging down to the middle alongside Aarpit Vasavada. To add to the dramatics of the limited-DRS, in the ongoing final, Pujara was rapped right in front of the stump, with the umpire giving it not out. Unhappy with the decision, the Bengal players went for the review. And the review leads us to the next chaotic event, the ball pitched right in line and hit him in front of the stumps.
However, by then, Pujara had already stepped down to the left-arm spinner in an attempt to hit him through the leg-side. While he was late to his shot, the ball hit him on the pads in line but Pujara was already beyond the nine-feet mark. That prevented the umpire from giving the decision against Pujara as in domestic cricket, anything beyond the nine-feet mark is deemed to be not-out even when it looks plumb.
While in this case, the ball could and would have carried through and hit the leg-stump, the Saurashtra batsman was saved because of the rule. It left the opposition - Bengal players in utter distraught. They were under the feeling that they had got the big-fish out, however, that was not the case. Just when the Bengal players thought that they lost the review because of the incompetence of the DRS system, the umpire took a couple of steps and explained the mob that surrounded him with the system in play.
Also, their review was not wasted as it was considered in a similar fashion as in international cricket when it is ‘umpire’s call.’ Similarly, here too, they saved their review despite it being unsuccessful. At this point, it is natural to think that there is no more drama from the first one and a half days of play in Rajkot. Hold your horses, there is more to unfurl in front of your eyes.
The injured umpire Chettithody Shamshuddin was left injured on Day one and in a dramatic set of events, he went down like Neymar. After that incident, the umpire was rested a week to ten days rest. In the light of that incident, BCCI roped in Yashwant Barde to fill in for the injured umpire. It does not stop here. In the next set of events, he was replaced by the 54-year-old Piyush Khakhar, who incidentally was not an umpire under the qualified set for officiating in a Ranji Trophy encounter.
This made KN Ananthapadmanabhan, who was the only fit umpire on the field to officiate from both ends, a classic gully-style officiating. However, this is not gully cricket, and more so, it is Indian domestic season’s biggest day - Ranji Trophy final. The other umpire who was at the stadium was S Ravi, who was the TV umpire. While Ravi could not make himself to the field during the session, the umpires had to wait until the session got over before the switch. And, miraculously, S Ravi made himself available on the field for the next session, which makes the TV official spot empty.
Don’t worry, they got the injured umpire Shamshuddin to fill up the spot, with Yashwant Barde all set to be the umpire on Day three of the encounter. If you ever thought that the pitch they made was boring for the Final, all the other things in play were hilarious and equally mind-boggling. At the end of the day, it makes you think it it is really the richest board!