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A ‘golden’ year for Duleep Trophy

Updated on: 22 September,2022 02:31 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello | clayton@mid-day.com

In 1972, State Bank colleagues Hanumant Singh and Ajit Wadekar led Central Zone and West Zone respectively to memorable zonal honours in finals played at Bangalore and Mumbai

A ‘golden’ year for Duleep Trophy

Central Zone skipper Hanumant Singh kisses the Duleep Trophy after beating West Zone in the final on March 14, 1972. PIC/MID-DAY ARCHIVES

Clayton MurzelloThe Duleep Trophy, once considered the steppingstone to India selection, was robbed of its significance in recent years.

Fortunately, the BCCI has given it the fillip it deserves this season and brought back the zonal format as against players representing Red, Green or Blue—team names that reminded cynics of their annual 
sports days.

The ongoing final being contested by West Zone and South Zone at Coimbatore promises to be an engrossing one although Mumbai cricket followers would be distressed to see Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Sarfaraz Khan not getting big runs in the first innings for West Zone.

There was a time West Zone dominated this tournament, which was first played in 1961-62. In the first 25 seasons, they had their hands on the silverware a dozen times. While North and South had their time in the sun as well, Central claimed their first triumph in 1971-72.

Interestingly, the calendar year of 1972 witnessed two Duleep Trophy finals—one in March for the 1971-72 season and the other in November, which was part of the 1972-73 season. These finals featured West Zone and Central Zone led on both occasions by Ajit Wadekar and Hanumant Singh respectively.

The 1971-72 game at Central College ground in Bangalore, ended in favour of Central. Batting first, West Zone were troubled by Salim Durani’s left-arm spin (6-44) and totalled only 279, a score which didn’t do justice to their star-studded batting line-up that comprised Test men Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Sardesai and Eknath Solkar. The score would have been far less if not for some slopping catching which Central were guilty of.

Gavaskar was playing his first Duleep Trophy final. He had arrived in India after playing the Rest of the World in Australia and scored a hundred on his zonal cricket debut against East Zone at Jamshedpur.

In the final at Bangalore, he was dismissed for 30 and seven. Central didn’t fare better than West on the batting front – bowled out for 200 – with Solkar claiming the same number of wickets as Durani. 

However, the loss of openers Ramnath Parkar and Gavaskar (dismissed by his St Xavier’s college teammate Kailash Gattani) in the last hour of Day Two took away some joy for West.

On Day Three, West were dismissed for 195. Durani sent back Hemant Kanitkar, Milind Rege and Ajit Naik while Central’s future Test batsman Parthasarathy Sharma claimed 4-38. An unwell Sardesai came in at No.8 and blasted 40 in an hour through some exquisite cover drives. However, a cut shot was picked up by wicketkeeper Narendra Menon.

Central had to score 275 for victory and Durani was the man to do it with an unbeaten, lusty 83. Sharma, the other star for Central, slammed 75 as West succumbed to a two-wicket loss. Hanumant led his troops astutely and young gun Sanjay Jagdale, a future Test selector and secretary of the BCCI, benefited from the captain’s qualities. “I was just 22 then. Before the match, Hanumant called me to his room and told me that I could be a match-winner. I had played against him in the Ranji Trophy league, but this was the first time I was led by him.

“In WZ’s first innings I was stationed either at fine leg or third man, but as we were entering the field for the second innings, Hanumant asked me to field at gully. My brother Ashok claimed Mumbai’s first wicket—Ramnath Parkar. A few minutes later, Sunil slashed and I took a diving catch at gully. Another masterstroke from Hanumant was getting Parthasarthy to bowl his off-spin, which was crucial to the result,” Jagdale told me from Indore.

Unfortunately for Central, they couldn’t do a repeat of their Bangalore show later in the year in Mumbai. They were blown away by Pandurang Salgaoncar’s raw pace at the Brabourne Stadium where he claimed 7-72 for Central to be bowled out for 246. Kailash Gattani, the fast bowler, who top-scored for Central with 46 not out, told me from Pune on Wednesday: “Pandu [Salgaoncar’s nickname] was the fastest bowler in India then. He was raw, pacy and never believed in taking breaks. During that match, I noticed his captain Ajit [Wadekar] urging him to rest for a while. But he just wanted to continue. He surely should have played Test cricket for India.” By the way, Gattani is another fast bowler who missed out on India colours.

In a way, West Zone got their revenge for the loss in Bangalore. This time, Wadekar and Sardesai got big hundreds before Central were bowled out for 112 to hand West an innings victory.

West haven’t won the Duleep Trophy since 2009-10. Not only will present skipper Ajinkya Rahane have to be as astute as Wadekar in November 1972. He’ll also have to lead by example just like Wadekar did through his innings of 171.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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