Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ranji Rulers

The cricket world is full of talented achievers but never can all those talented make it to the squad of 11 players. There have been players toiling hard in the domestic circuit with a profile as good as any international legend. The lack of opportunity, inability to handle the pressure of international arena, selectioial preferences, and lack of luck can all be the factors that prevented them from attaining glory in the world circuit.

Nevertheless, these players provide intrinsic joy to the fans that follow domestic circuit. Their class being evident among the relative mediocrity of the domestic scene makes them look above the pack. The Indian domestic scene is dominated by many such performers who had been Legends in their own record.

The team during its golden periods like the Era of the spin quartet or the Fab Four in the middle order, Kumble- Harbhajan duo have all led to the closing of doors for the men who keep toiling in the local matches year after year. Infact these players have played their hearts out for their side with a level of commitment unmatched. As I continue with my favourite hobby of picking up XIs, this article is a look into a XI made of such domestic stars of Indian cricket in the past two decades. The criteria have been clearly that any player who had atleast played one match for the national side is not considered.

Mukund Harishkumar Parmar (Gujarat)
            The man from Gujarat was their only saviour in days of zonal matches. For a period of a decade and half, he continued to score runs with less support from his fellow team mates. Gujarat had been the whipping boys of the West Zone often finishing in the bottom pile. Yet Parmar was a standout performer, carrying the hopes of their batting on his shoulders. He holds the unique record of scoring century in both the innings twice. He managed to pile on 6674 runs at a healthy average of a touch less than 50. That he did this playing for a team with almost no support from the other end is a credit on this gentleman.

Jagadeesh Arunkumar (Karnataka)
            Karnataka has been blessed with some legendary cricketers in 1990s. Dravid, Kumble and Srinath ended up being legends. They also had a side full of India drop outs like Somasunder, Bharadwaj, Joshi, Ganesh, Johnson and co. Yet their batting has been held forth by Arunkumar who was never in national reckoning. He feasted on the domestic attack making 7000 plus runs with some crucial knocks in the knock outs. He starred in Duleep Trophy as well. Presence of solid batsmen at top for India meant he ended his career as a domestic giant.

Maturi Venkat Sridhar (Hyderabad)
            Known better as the “Doc”, he played for Hyderabad’s Ranji side for almost two decades. He was their leading batsman in the absence of the then Indian skipper Azharuddin. He has scored a big triple and few doubles among his 21 centuries and 6704 runs. This doctor symbolised his education by being the crisis man for Hyderabad churning out runs season after season. By the time he reached his prime, Indian middle order read : Manjrekar, Tendulkar, Azharuddin and Kambli. Soon Dravid and Ganguly settled in and he never got into the reckoning. Nevertheless, he is man behind Hyderabad’s golden run in late 1990s reaching Semifinals almost every season or two.

Amol Anil Muzumdar (Bombay)
            Probably the most famous player to have never made it to the national squad, Muzumdar was contemporary of Tendulkar. He infact was the man in waiting, padded up when Tendulkar and Kambli added record 664 runs for Shardhashram Vidya Mandir. He learnt his art alongside the master and held his favourite position of No 4 for Mumbai side in Sachin’s absence. He made a grand debut scoring 260 runs, a world record one. He toiled hard at the domestic scene, making runs and becoming Ranji Trophy’s highest scorer. He has 10000 plus runs in first class matches. He also played alongside Dravid and Ganguly for India ‘A’ but his very own mates, closed the door for his entry to the national side. He even led Mumbai to title triumph in 2007 but was left high and dry by his very own Mumbai side forcing him to play for Assam. In 2009, he eclipsed Kaypee’s record for the most runs in Ranji Trophy. His career is explained by his own words as “My sole aim is to get runs. What happened in the nineties, whoever didn't pick me and whoever ignored me ... all that doesn't feature when I go out there to perform."  

Amarjeet Kaypee (Haryana)
            Kaypee, a well built batsman was a sturdy batsman with a solid technique and dedication. Initally playing for Punjab, he peaked once he shifted to Haryana. He scored 940 runs in 1990-91, their only season of triumph in Ranji Trophy. He managed to score 500 plus aggregate in more than half a dozen seasons. He was the highest scorer in Ranji Trophy for a decade until Muzumdar broke the record in 2009. He has a record 405 run partnership with Jadeja and has second most hundreds tally in Ranji Trophy. Despite such astounding records and an undulating nature to score runs he was never considered for national side, thanks to the inconsistent selection policies.

Sridharan Sharath (Tamil Nadu)
            He has been another nearly man from Tamilnadu. The gusty left hander wedded timing with determination. Inspite of a lacking solid technique and with a extra heavy body, his determination scored in the areas of lack. Just like Ranatunga he was man for crisis, scoring tons after tons for Tamilnadu and made as much as 8700 runs at an average of 51. He watched his lesser equipped mates Ramesh, Sriram, Badani make it to the national side and drop out but was never under consideration. Once again had he not been peaking at the time of Fab Four, he would have ended up with a few years in Indian team. India’s miss has been Tamilnadu’s gain and he was backbone behind their reaching the Finals in more than a season or two. He deserved his chances but then his legacy lives on in Chennai still.

Vinayak Radhakrishna Samant (Mumbai)  
            Samant was a keeper any captain would love to have in his side. He can bat anywhere, he is excellent behind the wickets and his commitment to his job is his forte. Having been understudy to Dighe, he migrated to Assam where his stay was full of troubles. On return to Mumbai, he established himself as regular in 2002 and has till date 330 dismissals in 90 matches, a record to laud. He is also a good batsmen rescuing Mumbai at crucial times, none better than the semifinals of 2006-07 against Baroda when he made a terrific gritty knock of 66 against rampaging Irfan Pathan after the scorecard read 0/5 at the time of his arrival to the crease. He was promoted to open in 2009 and responded with a match winning hundred in second innings of the finals. He is also among the best sledgers of domestic leagues. He again was an unlucky chap. He wasted his prime years to Dighe and the period coincided with so many keepers playing for India. By the time he peaked, he was above 30 years and Dhoni was the marquee man in national side.

Karumanaseri Narayanaiyer Ananthapadmanabhan (Kerala)
            A leg spin champion of domestic scene, Ananthapadmanabhan carried the hopes of small team of Kerala on his broad shoulders for a decade and half. Blessed with varities of leg spin and googlies, he caught the selectors’ eye only to fade in before Kumble. He was also a handy bat scoring double century too. He was the sole saviour for Kerala side often running through the opposition only for his fellow batsmen to falter and return the advantage he created. Had he not been in the times of Kumble, he might have had a decent career with national side.

Ashish Winston Zaidi (Uttar Pradesh)
            A real work horse in domestic circuit, Zaidi endured 18 seasons for Uttar Pradesh without injury. Being a medium pacer, this is no mean achievement. He bowled his heart out for the central zone side, taking in a place in the bowling charts of the season at somewhere in the top five for many season. He has the most wickets among the medium pacers in Ranji Trophy and in a career of 110 games in the flaccid tracks he has managed 378 wickets. He missed out the national side when his career clubbed with peak time of Srinath, Prassad and likes.

Ranadeb Ranjit Bose (Bengal)
            It is a big loss that a bowler of Ranadeb Bose’s calibre could not play for India. He was rocking the domestic games at a period around 2004-07. He managed to break into the test side but was discarded without a chance. He topped the season charts for two seasons, bowls with unerring accuracy and is a fighter to the core. The fact that he has bowled 12000 plus balls without a front foot no ball to his name by 2007 season was adorable. By the time he peaked neither was Ganguly, a co Bengali at helm nor was Dalmiya in the board. He had no one to back him. By the time sensible people were in the hot seat, Bose was piped by the likes of R.P.Singh, Praveen Kumar, Sreeasnth for the national side. He still remains a champion in first class cricket with 314 wickets at an average of 23.7 collected in the highway pitches.

Kanwaljit Singh (Hyderabad)
            In a career spanning 21 years, Kanwaljith Singh was Hyderabad’s spin king. The offspinner was heading the charts in domestic seasons even at the end of his long career. With Raju, he forged a successful partnership of spin, spinning the web around the batsmen. He collected 369 victims with healthy average and was a match winner of high quality. India did miss his service in late 1990s.

This is just a representative eleven. The list of such domestic giants runs long. Thakur, Vij, Jain, Jeshwant, Jabbar, Azeem, Biswal, Parida, Kalyani, Snehasis Ganguly, Haldipur, Shamsad, Puri, Manhas, Mehra, Shakthi Singh, Kotak, Neeraj Patel, Vasu, Sunil Subramaniam, Venkatramana, Thilak Naidu, Jadhav, Bhupinder Singh Jr and so on. Add to this the list of those who just made it to the national squad and was dropped, these Rulers of Ranji require a Royal Salute.

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