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What did Deodhar Trophy teach Indian cricket?

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Last updated on 05 Aug 2023 | 04:29 AM
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What did Deodhar Trophy teach Indian cricket?

In an ODI World Cup year, the premier 50-over competition in the country has to mean something, right?

Cricket in Pondicherry wasn’t short of a carnival. Whilst the CAP (Cricket Association of Puducherry) Siechem Ground was nearly an hour’s travel away from the mainland city, it still remarkably drew a crowd engrossed in action at various parts of the tournament. 

While the main ground - Ground 1 - had all the facilities to host a day-night action, Ground 2 and 3 were often left to host the day fixtures. Despite the scorching heat, with temperatures daily reading in the late 30-degree mark, at 37, 38 and 36, respectively, the cricketers put on a show for the young fans. 

After the massive success of Alur hosting the Duleep Trophy earlier in the domestic calendar, the success of the Deodhar Trophy now expands BCCI’s venue pool - for future domestic tournaments. While that was the logistical learning, from a cricketing lens, did the Deodhar Trophy teach Indian cricket anything? 

India’s pace stock is at an all-time high

Even when the conditions were dry and mostly favoured the spinners, the heart with which the pacers bowled was commendable. Some bowled long spells, some in bursts with impact, while the others kept their line and length tight. Vidwath Kaverappa was the stand-out pacer of the competition. 

Kaverappa came into the Deodhar Trophy after acing all his debuts - T20, List A and First-Class - and this was just an opportunity to add more feathers to that cap. His work ethics were visible, and every time he bent his back, there was more speed and bounce, even on the most placid of surfaces. Kaverappa picked up 13 wickets, averaging 14.5 and giving runs at an economy of 4.7.

Mayank Yadav is also of similar prototype, with the ability to crank up the pace, with the Delhi pacer bagging 12 wickets. On the other hand, the likes of V Koushik and Manishankar Murasingh posed a different challenge, bowling hard and nagging lengths to the batters, with nine wickets each. 

Even Vyshak Vijaykumar (eight wickets) and Akash Deep (seven wickets) grew into the competition as it progressed, giving the Indian selectors a fair estimate of the resources at their disposal. 

Washington’s bowling form might come as a blessing

Given that the 50-over World Cup is around the corner, India are in dire straits of going into the competition without an off-spinner. In 2019, when India went with a strategy of having two wrist spinners in the XI, it backfired and how. 

Ever since, India have always relied on the safety net of having a left-arm spinner who could also bat. But in the Indian domestic pool, finding an off-spinner who is also an all-rounder is quite rare. That’s exactly where Washington Sundar’s form could be a blessing for the Men in Blue. 

Washington finished the tournament as the joint-best off-spinner, with eight wickets, with the likes of Utkarsh Singh (8), Nitish Rana (6) and Shivam Chaudhary (4) completing the list of top off-spinners. Even in the final against East Zone, Washington’s spell broke the back of the run-chase, picking up the crucial wickets of Saurabh Tiwary, Riyan Parag and Kumar Kushagra. 

Not just that, the off-spinner was also miserly in the competition, with an economy of 4.1, averaging 26.1. Washington is ready if India needs an off-spinning all-rounder, who also happens to be a left-handed batter. 

Bowlers who can bat are the need of the hour

After India’s narrow loss at the hands of West Indies in the first T20I, there was a big lesson to be learnt, even your bowlers need to be adept at their batting skills. However, continents away here in Pondicherry, some bowlers took batting so seriously that people often confused them with batters. 

Central Zone’s Shivam Mavi topped the run-scoring charts for lower-order batters (8-11), with 97 runs averaging 48.5 and a strike-rate of 136.6. He was at some power-hitting best against South Zone and really showed that lower-order batters are no mug. Bengal’s Akash Deep, too, showed his prowess with the bat. 

In the group-stage clash against South Zone, the Bengal pacer hit a 44, which saw the ball fly across the venue. The right-handed batter scored five sixes in the competition and had a strike-rate of 174. Both Rajvardhan Hangargekar and Vyshak Vijaykumar too showed potential with some lusty hits, but the tournament has shown that there is a sizeable improvement in the quality of batsmanship from the bowlers. 

Riyan Parag emerges as a real dark-horse option

After enduring a tough ACC Emerging Cup, Riyan Parag’s focus was set in stone, to have a good Deodhar Trophy. With so much criticism around his Indian Premier League (IPL) performances, the all-rounder from Assam had to live up to the billing. And that was exactly what he did for East Zone in the Deodhar Trophy. 

Both with the bat and the ball, Riyan stepped up whenever his team required, with two centuries - one against North Zone and the other against West Zone - and nearly had a third against South Zone in the final. Not only did he average 88.5 with the bat, but the right-hander also got those runs at a strike-rate of 136.7, scoring 23 sixes, ten more than the second-best Rohan Kunnummal. 

With the ball, Riyan bowled both off-spin as well as leg-spin, and more often than not, was quite economical. Alongside improving his carrom delivery, the East Zone all-rounder picked up 11 wickets with an economy of 4.8. With India lacking a batter in the top seven who can bowl full-time, Riyan could be the solution. 

Finally, batters who can bowl in India

Let’s put it this way since the era of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, and Virender Sehwag, India have never had too many batters in the top order who could roll their arms. Rohit Sharma was a good option until he stopped bowling, and Virat Kohli was never as effective with the ball. From the present crop of cricketers too, there are hardly cricketers who can roll their arms, leaving India with a very strict template.

That’s where some batters tried to change the template in the Deodhar Trophy. There was Venkatesh Iyer, who was bowling more than ever, regaining full fitness. Shivam Chaudhary, who opens the batting for Railways too, had a say with the ball, picking up four wickets in the clash against West Zone. 

Sarfaraz Khan, too bowled against East Zone, where he switched between off-spin and leg-spin bowling eight overs. Kathan Patel, too, rolled his arm, bowling tight spells with his off-spin. Yash Kothari, primarily a batter, picked up three wickets, while Nitish Rana also picked up six wickets. 

Shivam Dube too, who hadn’t bowled a lot in the recent time, bowled 26 overs, picking up three wickets. So, in short, batters have finally started realising the worth of rolling their arms. Will it be sustainable, that’s the question.

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