Mumbai, December 26, 2011
Ravindra Jadeja's decision to rest against Rajasthan has probably cost Saurashtra a slot in the Ranji Trophy knock-out phase.
The team has thus been denied a chance to have a shot at the title as well as an attractive prize money of Rs. 2 crore.
At the conclusion of the league stage on Saturday, both Rajasthan and Saurashtra, with two wins from seven matches, finished at 16 points and the defending champion advanced to the quarterfinals with a superior run quotient.
Rajasthan defeated Saurashtra in the league, but the BCCI removed the ‘result against each other' clause a few years ago to identify the side that would proceed to the knock-out in the event of teams being tied on points.
It was during the course of the five-match ODI series against the West Indies that the 23-year-old all-rounder conveyed to his association that he need not be considered for Saurashtra's penultimate league game against Rajasthan at Jaipur from December 13 to 16.
This match was played just two days after the fifth and final ODI at Chennai.
While Bengal's Manoj Tiwary reached Kolkata in time for the match against Delhi, Suresh Raina made it to Lucknow for Uttar Pradesh's encounter against Mumbai. Punjab's Rahul Sharma, too, made it to Bangalore for the match against Karnataka while Parthiv Patel went to Ahmedabad for Gujarat's game against Tamil Nadu.
Jadeja, however, asked for a ‘much-needed' rest after he had scored 68 runs in five matches (four innings), and bowled 49 overs and taken nine wickets against the West Indies. If Jadeja had played that match, he would have probably made a big difference against a side (Rajasthan) that was occupying the bottom half of the Elite Group A table with five points from as many games.
As it turned out, Rajasthan scored 396 and 241 for four declared and dismissed Saurashtra for 265 and 143 to score a resounding victory.
Rajasthan's seam bowlers Pankaj Singh (five for 64 and two for 49) and Sumit Mathur (two for 51 and six for 33) proved too hot to handle for Saurashtra, but a player of Jadeja's calibre would have performed better and made a big difference to the final outcome.
In excellent touch
In most cases, a team advances with its main player in form. Jadeja has been in excellent touch after being recalled to the Indian side for the ODI series against England in England.
Jadeja smashed a triple hundred against Odisha (314), played against Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, and missed two league matches (Karnataka and Mumbai) as he was busy with the Indian team.
He made 28 and 45 and took six for 23 and four for 42 in the final league match as Saurashtra registered a big victory in a low-scoring game against Railways. Jadeja went on to top the batting and bowling charts for Saurashtra with 433 runs and 18 wickets.
“He asked for rest and it was given to him. We cannot force anyone to play.
“But, his absence alone cannot be the reason for Saurashtra's defeat against Rajasthan. The other boys should have played well,'' said Niranjan Shah, Secretary, Saurashtra Cricket Association and vice-president of the BCCI, when asked about Jadeja's decision to miss the match against Rajasthan.
After the victory against Saurashtra, Rajasthan trounced bottom-placed Odisha to gain six points, including a bonus, to be on par with Saurashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which took the first innings lead against Karnataka at Shimoga.
Boost from Bist
Rajasthan picked up 11 points in the last two matches. This was made possible by the superb efforts of Robin Bist (829 runs with four centuries and two half-centuries).
He had good support from the others, including captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
Seamer Mathur, too, figured prominently, taking 13 of his 19 wickets in the last two games.
Rising to the occasion
The experienced Pankaj and newcomer Rituraj Singh rose to the occasion while leg-spinner Vivek Yadav also chipped in.
Mumbai, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana from the Elite league and Maharashtra and Hyderabad from the Plate league will figure in the knock-out stage while Saurashtra and Jadeja will have to watch from the sidelines.