By Anupam Soni :
Ghani, all-rounders led Vid to quarters after 25 yrs
VIDARBHA cricket, in good old days, had a tradition of doing well in one innings and later pouring cold water on their earlier efforts. Leading the side in his first season, middle-order batsman Usman Ghani inspired his team-mates to break that tradition and led from the front as Vidarbha made it to quarter-finals of the premier domestic cricket championship — Ranji Trophy, after a long wait of 25 years. Riding on Ghani’s important knocks and an all-round show from the likes of Manish Dosi, Pritam Gandhe, Praveen Hinganikar and Ulhas Gandhe, Vidarbha got the better of Haryana on first innings lead in the pre-quarterfinals played at VCA, Civil Lines ground in February 1996. This was Vidarbha’s just second Ranji Trophy quarter-final in the tournament’s history.
Their first last-8 match came against Bengal in February 1971 and was played in Calcutta. Bengal took first innings lead to move into the last four. Late Arun Ogiral had led the Vidarbha team then. In the five-day knock-out pre-quarters versus Haryana, Vidarbha won the toss and decided to bat first. Vidarbha opener Mohammad Sabir (87), who could play just ten Ranji matches for the side, came up with his best show with the willow. Wickets fell at regular intervals at the other end and by the time he was fifth out at team score of 140, things were looking bleak for the hosts. But Ghani (94) and Ulhas Gandhe (50) steadied the ship with a 101-run partnership.
Later, coming at number ten, Pritam Gandhe (81) also recorded his best First-Class score (in exactly 100 games). He stitched an important 111-run partnership with Ghani for the ninth wicket that helped the team reach closer to the 400-run mark. With last man Trevor Gonsalves blasting an unbeaten 21, Vidarbha scorecard looked much better at 414. “The wicket was bowler friendly...there was turn and bounce. It was good for medium pacers but better for spinners. Sabir gave us a good start. He was a gritty and fearless performer but could never convert his starts into big innings. I had good partnerships with Gandhe brothers. After Ulhas got out, Pritam played a sensible and a matured innings.
Trevor’s quickfire knock also helped us,” remembered Ghani while sharing his thoughts with ‘The Hitavada’. Pritam added that the team was confident after making it to the pre-quarters. “After qualifying for the pre-quarters we all had that confidence. A day before, when we were warming up, the difference between the two sides was very clear — we looked a charged up unit. I had a good partnership with Ghani. They had a good attack but we dominated and the lower order contributed well. “Actually, I started cricket as a batsman and later shifted to spin. There were quite a few occasions in my career that I scored crucial runs for my teams.
It was one of those occasions...‘mere andar ek batsman ghus gaya type ka’,” said Pritam on his batting in the first innings. Haryana innings was going almost the same way as Vidarbha. Opener Jitender Singh (79) saw wickets falling from the other end. He was joined by wicketkeeper and India player Vijay Yadav (111) at 4-124 and the duo frustrated the hosts by piling 167 runs. But their dismissals within ten runs, turned the tide in Vidarbha’s favour. They lost last five wickets for 54 runs. The trio of slow left-arm orthodox Manish Dosi (3-49), seamer Praveen Hinganikar (3-96) and offie Pritam (3-107) shared the spoils. Ulhas picked one wicket. In the second innings, Vidarbha needed to bat time. Dosi (87), who also came up with his best FC score, and Ghani (66) added 123 runs for the fifth wicket as Vidarbha declared at 269-7 setting an improbable target of 329 runs in 30-odd overs.
The players shook hands as Haryana ended making 2-64 in 22 overs. “Over 400 runs made the opponents defensive and they were on the backfoot. We all bowled well in tandem. It was an overall good all-round performance. We had a good season and also had home advantage. “Actually, they were not looking like the real Haryana team or might be we were more positive and aggressive in that game. They had good players but they did not click as a unit and we played better cricket...we dominated,” said Pritam. “Yadav was going great guns and was scoring quickly while I was bowling very economically from one end. While defending one of my deliveries, he edged it to be caught by wicketkeeper Sudhir Wankhede. It turned out to be the turning point of the match.
After his dismissal they collapsed,” recalled Dosi dismissing the only centurion of the match. Dosi later made his highest FC score. “We had taken the first innings lead but it was not a substantial one. The wickets was a turner and they had two good spinners in offie Pankaj Thakur and left-armer Pradeep Jain who were bowling well. Thakur was at his peak and was considered among the best at domestic level. I had played at No 3 on many occasions and I used to be sent above when the team needed to bat time. I had a vital partnership with Ghani who scored runs in both the innings,” said Dosi on his batting.
“Haryana had good players including skipper Amarjeet Kaypee, Yadav and Puri, who had just played for India-19. They had a good balanced side. But we had more all-rounders and most of them delivered in that game. When top batsmen failed the lower order contributed. Pritam and Ulhas played well with me in first innings. Praveen (Hinganikar) used to bowl very good cutters and gave us the breakthrough. Dosi and Pritam were also among wickets. “We had a mini collapse in the second innings. We had that tradition of failing in the second innings but we broke that culture. We wanted to show the opponents that we were tough. “Haryana players were sledging saying ‘inki team pachak jaati hai second innings main’. I egged on Manish to prove them wrong. I promoted Dosi, who was steady and played spinners well, and he did the job. We had a good partnership and took the match to safety. We were a wonderful side. It was just a formality after that partnership. Maza aaya!,” Ghani signed off.
Match: Vidarbha vs Haryana Ranji Trophy 1995-96, 6th prequarter-final played at VCA Civil Lines ground in February 1996.
Result: Match drawn. Vidarbha enter quarters on first innings lead.
n Three Vidarbha players came up with their personal best First-Class scores — Manish Dosi (89), M Sabir (87) and Pritam Gandhe (81).
— Dilip Singh Upring
The Hitavada Scoreboard
VIDARBHA 1ST INNINGS: M Sabir c Yadav b D Singh 87, S Iyer c Yadav b Singh 6, Dosi b P Jain 8, P Hedaoo c Goel b P Jain 21, Y Ghare lbw b D Singh 10, U Ghani b V Jain 94, P Hinganikar b Thakur 8, U Gandhe lbw b Thakur 50, S Wankhede b Thakur 0, P Gandhe c J Singh b V Jain 81, T Gonsalves Not Out 21. Extras: (b 10, lb 8, w 1, nb 9) 28. TOTAL: (All out, 163.1 overs) 414. FoW: 1-26, 2-60, 3-104, 4-133, 5-140, 6-158, 7-259, 8-263, 9-374. Bowling: Singh 18-3-54-1, V Jain 12.1-2-37-2, P Jain 46-8-111-2, D Singh 19-8-35-2, Thakur 65-14-150-3, Puri 3-1-9-0. HARYANA 1ST INNINGS: J Singh c Wankhede b U Gandhe 79, N Goel lbw b Hinganikar 3, P Avtar Singh c U Gandhe b Dosi 15, A Kaypee c Hedaoo b P Gandhe 20, R Puri c Wankhede b Hinganikar 55, V Yadav c Wankhede b Dosi 111, P Jain c Wankhede b Dosi 27, D Singh b Hinganikar 4, P Thakur c Sabir b P Gandhe 22, V Jain b P Gandhe 0, RRP Singh Not Out 3. Extras: (b 9, lb 4, nb 3) 16. TOTAL: (All out, 157 overs) 355. FoW: 1-17, 2-62, 3-108, 4-124, 5-291, 6-301, 7-321, 8-349, 9-349. Bowling: Hinganikar 37-17-96-3, Gonsalves 10-2-33-0, P Gandhe 59-18-107-3, Dosi 31-11-49-3, U Gandhe 15-4-33-1, Hedaoo 4-0-22-0, Ghani 1-0-2-0. VIDARBHA 2ND INNINGS: M Sabir c J Singh b Thakur 30, S Iyer c Yadav b Singh 0, M Dosi c Kaypee b D Singh 89, P Hedaoo c Kaypee b V Jain 35, Y Ghare c Yadav b Thakur 1, U Ghani c Yadav b V Jain 66, P Hinganikar c Yadav b Dhanraj Singh 23, U Gandhe Not Out 0. Extras: (b 8, lb 6, nb 11) 25. TOTAL: (7 wickets decl, 120.4 overs) 269. FoW: 1-10, 2-43, 3-118, 4-120, 5-243, 6-260, 7-269. Bowling: V Jain 19-2-65-2, Singh 17-4-48-1, Thakur 43-15-72-2, D Singh 13.4-7-15-2, P Jain 27-8-55-0, Puri 1-1-0-0. HARYANA 2ND INNINGS (Target: 329 runs): J Singh c Wankhede b P Gandhe 12, P Thakur b Iyer 35, A Singh Not Out 13, P Jain Not Out 0. Extras: (b 4) 4. TOTAL: (2 wickets, 22 overs) 64. FoW: 1-27, 2-64. Bowling: Hinganikar 3-1-10-0, Gonsalves 4-0-7-0, Hedaoo 8-1-20-0, P Gandhe 6-0-20-1, Iyer 1-0-3-1. n