Washington Sundar reflects on Tamil Nadu's resilience
A warm breeze welcomed me the moment I entered the MCA Sharad Pawar Indoor Cricket Academy in Mumbai for the third round encounter of Group C of Ranji Trophy 2017-2018 involving hosts Mumbai and Tamil Nadu.
With the scorching heat on offer right from the start of this clash, the second day too did not have any respite for the players of both the side as they toiled hard.
The crucial first session of play
With the home team comfortably placed at 314 runs for the loss of seven wickets at the start of the second day, the morning session was extremely vital for both the outfits in the context of the game.
Vijay Shankar, the stand-out bowler for the visitors, struck early with the all-important scalp of Abhishek Nayar early in the session to give his team an advantage. With not much batting to follow, a flurry of strokes from Akash Parker enabled Mumbai to post 374 runs on the board in the first innings.
However, the turning point of the session came when Tamil Nadu came out to bat in pursuit of the first innings total. The skipper Abhinav Mukund along with the experienced Murali Vijay strode out to take guard for the visiting side but little did they know just how spirited the Mumbai bowling unit would be.
With Dhawal Kulkarni spearheading the attack, the bowling department looked potent and had the ability to create early inroads and cause a bit of panic in the opposition dugout. Sharing the new ball with him was a young all-rounder playing his second game for Mumbai, Akash Parker, who started off nervously, bowling a couple of ball outside the leg stump.
However, he soon got his line and length right, much to the delight of the Mumbai camp. Parkar picked up the prized scalp of Mukund in the fourth over. The visiting side were then dealt a severe blow as they lost their premier batsman, Murali Vijay, just before lunch to a delivery from Vijay Gohil, that gripped and bounced to take the outside edge to the wicket-keeper.
The target of 374 runs looked a good distance off with the scoreboard reading 34 runs for the loss of two wickets at lunch.
The calmness of Washington Sundar
The need of the hour for the visitors was a solid partnership after the lunch interval. However, they were rocked on the very first ball after the break as Kaushik Gandhi was cleaned up by Abhishek Nayar for six runs.
With the team tottering at 34 for three, Vijay Shankar walked out to the middle. Playing his natural game and attacking the bowlers, the all-rounder was eventually undone by a flighted delivery from the left-arm spinner, handing Mumbai the all-important advantage in the second session.
And just when things started to crumble for the Tamil Nadu outfit, in walked Washington Sundar. For someone aged just 18, this was a tough situation to walk in to.
But the teenager showcased exemplary skill to battle it out for his team, with a well-made 69 runs off 91 balls. The left-hander was also involved in a vital 157 run stand with Baba Indrajith for the fifth wicket which enabled his side to inch closer to the first innings total.
"There was a lot of pressure and 374 runs on this wicket. When I went in, it was around 70 for 4. I thought we needed a good partnership and I just wanted to spend some time with Indrajith in the middle," Washington said, reflecting on his knock.
With a few wickets down, it was important for the two to stick around and bat for a prolonged period if Tamil Nadu were to get anywhere close to the Mumbai total. Discussing his approach to batting, he said, "We did not have any plan as such, all we wanted was to play according to the merit of the ball, and we kept getting runs which helped us ease a bit of the pressure. When the team is not in a good position, resisting the temptation to play strokes is very important."
The approach did work for them as they reduced the deficit in the first innings to 135 runs as Tamil Nadu ended day two in a commanding position with 239 runs for the loss of five wickets courtesy an unbeaten century from Baba Indrajith.
The match seems to be tilting towards the visitors at the moment, but if the home team manage to pick up early wickets on the morning of the third day, we could be in for an exciting finish.