Bangalore: Stuart Binny’s phone rang at the lunch break on opening day’s play between Karnataka and Orissa. It was his father Roger, the national selector, on the line.
Karnataka went on to shoot out Orissa for just 202 after winning the toss on a grassy pitch, but back then Roger was critical of his son’s bowling: ‘You are bowling the wrong line,” he said. It was a spot-on assessment from the former opening bowler of India and it could be even extended for the entire Karnataka attack.
• Karnataka wicketkeeper CM Gautam (centre) celebrates with team mates after his catch helped dismiss Orissa batsman Deepak Behera during a Ranji Trophy match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore yesterday
It’s probably harsh on a bowling lineup that produced enough good deliveries to take ten wickets, and were especially accurate in the final session where they picked six wickets, but until then, it was a mixed performance that left you wondering how they would have prospered against a better batting team.
It’s also a sentiment shared by CM Gautam, the catching hero of the day, who equalled Thilak Naidu’s wicketkeeping record for Karnataka by taking six dismissals in an innings.
“From lunch to tea, I think we bowled outside off a bit too much. At tea we planned to keep it around off stump line and hit the 3/4th length and that worked. I got three catches too as a result after tea.”
SL Akshay, the man who broke through in the final session with three wickets, sprayed it around a lot but slipped in enough good deliveries to get the edges; he ended up with four wickets from nearly 15 overs.
Vinay Kumar, the captain, was the most accurate of them all, and he was rewarded three wickets for his consistency. The 19-year old HS Sharath too, who picked up a wicket with his first legal deliveryof the day when he bowled Natraj Behera with a full length ball, was dangerous whenever he found that line around off stump.
And Binny, much to his father’s relief, did find his radar later on. For Orissa, the main resistance came from the No.3 batsman Niranjan Behera, who hit a patient 177-ball 61 in his first game since December 2011, and No. 6 batsman Subhrajit Sahu who made 45.
The pair added 69 runs, with risk-free and patient cricket. A tuck here, a push there, an odd drive or a cut, saw them slowly stretch the stand before Karnataka hit back in the last session. Credit to the bowlers for getting the edges but an even bigger mention must be made of Gautam who took two fine diving catches.
The best of the lot, and his personal favourite, was the one he took to remove Lagnajit Samal, the 8th man to fall, when he dived full stretch to his right to pouch it inches off the turf.
It was the second catch that he took in front of Robin Uthappa at first slip; did he have any hesitancy in going for it? “I have been practicing without a first slip in place. I automatically went for it and also it was keeping low and the ball was dipping; so I had to go for it.”
Indeed, it was a fine performance from Gautam, who was pretty average behind the stumps in the earlier seasons. He would rarely shuffle well sideways on his feet and would lunge, an observation he agrees with but he said that he has worked really hard to rectify.
“My movement wasn’t great before. I worked hard for three months with the coach to improve my fitness and agility. All the keeping drills have worked for me now.”
He has also batted really well in this season, twice pulling Karnataka out of the hole with sterling efforts, and on this pitch which has something for the seamers, they might need him today to do an encore to ensure Karnataka take the vital first-innings lead.