By T S Sudhir
Hyderabad shamed all its cricket fans today. Ironically on a day when Andhra Pradesh celebrated its 54th birthday, Hyderabad earned the dubious distinction of scoring the lowest total in the annals of Ranji Trophy cricket.
On day one of the 77th Ranji season, the Rajasthan bowlers had Hyderabadis for breakfast in Jaipur, skittling them out for 21 in just 78 minutes. Wonder whatever happened to the famed Rajasthani hospitality?!
Not a single batsman got into double digits and Akshath Reddy”s 6 was the highest individual score. The wrecker-in-chief was debutant Deepak Chahar, who took 8 wickets for 10 runs.
Statisticians had a tough time, rewinding into history because the previous Ranji record was set in the first Ranji season, way back in 1934-35, when Southern Punjab was bowled out for 22 chasing 114 against Northern India in Amritsar.
Hyderabad coach Venkatapathy Raju’s boys equalled another shameful record. Their effort equalled the record for the lowest total in all first-class cricket in India, set during the Bombay Quadrangular in 1915-16 when the Europeans shot out the Mohammedans out for 21 runs.
Arshad Ayub, former India off-spinner and now president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association says he never imagined he would see a day like this in his lifetime.
“I am very disappointed with the way the boys handled the first morning when the fresh wicket will always do a few things. I am told every batsman was trying to chase the ball and hit out instead of staying at the wicket. The senior players did not handle it well despite a very good month-long summer camp that we organised for them,” rues Ayub.
Ayub hopes the team rallies in the second innings. It will be an uphill task for the Rajasthan team at the end of day 1 has already made 121/1.
If nothing else, the innings exposes how bare the Hyderabad cupboard is in terms of talent and bench strength. The team is yet to recover from the blow it received when virtually the entire team walked over to the rebel Indian cricket League three years back. Subsequently, the boys did return but a powerhouse like Ambati Rayudu, preferred not to play anymore for Hyderabad.
One good thing about Hyderabad cricket is that it is not governed by non-cricketers. In fact, it is a spin quartet that has spun its way into positions of power and eminence in the HCA for quite some time. Arshad Ayub, Shivlal Yadav, Venkatapathy Raju and Kanwaljit Singh.
But all that the likes of Shivlal have to show is a wonderful cricket stadium, modelled on the Wanderers in South Africa. The Rajiv Gandhi cricket stadium which will play host to the India-New Zealand second cricket Test match from November 12. Hyderabad, in fact, will be hosting a Test match after 22 years.
But it is the team, that has been relegated to the Plate level in the Ranji Trophy, that needs urgent attention. There isn’t a single player in this Hyderabad squad who is knocking at the Indian team’s door for selection. And for all you know, VVS Laxman and Pragyan Ojha would well be the last Hyderabad players to wear India colours, for quite some time to come.
I hope Laxman wasn’t following his team’s fortunes today. This has been, by far, the worst and most depressing birthday gift he would have ever received.