Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Women's cricket Inter Railway : Knock out phase overview

The semi final line up of the women's cricket inter railway pitted hosts Western Railway (WR)  against North Central Railway (NCR) and South Central Railway (SCR) against Southern Railway (SR). Both encounters turned out to be low scoring, one sided affairs.

WR bowlers made life tough for the NCR batters, finally restricting them to  a painstaking 90 in 50 overs. WR opener Punam Raut stayed unbeaten to guide her team home.

Southern fared little better, being dismissed for 125. South Central made short work of that total, opener M. Shalini scoring a half century. The win set up a mouthwatering clash between holders WR and challengers SCR in the final.

Before that though, NCR and SR locked horns for third place, in a rematch of their tied league encounter. The first half proved to be an balanced contest between bat and ball, with NCR opener Chitra  Singh scoring an impressive 70 , and SR spinners Anusha and Salma picking up three wickets each. NCR finally managed 164  in their 50 overs, which proved to be enough. SR struggled to get partnerships going as the spin trio of Poonam Yadav (4 wickets), Neetu David (3 wickets) and Ekta Bisht (2 wickets) did the damage. SR were eventually bowled out for 109, handing NCR the third place honours.

Finals day dawned with SCR fielding only one pace bowler in their starting XI, Gouher Sultana coming back into the team. On a pitch that would likely take spin, WR captain Reema Malhotra had no hesitation in electing to bat. Her openers provided a sluggish but steady start, until Anagha Deshpande dragged a cut shot onto her stumps. After that, wickets falling against the run of play seemed to be the order of the day, as most WR batters got in, got set, and then got out. When Punam Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy fell in quick succession in the batting power play, WR seemed to be struggling. But Reema Malhotra (29) stuck around to give her bowlers something to defend, WR finally scoring 184.

SCR's reply began in dramatic fashion with opener Rewati being dropped at gully off seamer Snehal Pradhan's first delivery. The batter got another reprieve in the third over and seemed to be living a charmed life, as she and her partner Shalini scored steadily. Spin made its appearance as early as the ninth over, and the breakthrough came when offie Lalita Sharma had Rewati caught at slip, bringing Mithali Raj to the crease. The SCR skipper batted freely and built two solid partnerships, first with Shalini and then with Shravanti Naidu, which took SCR to within striking distance of the WR total. However, good fielding accounted for both her partners, Shalini out to a stunning catch by Pradhan, and Shravanti run out by a diving Krishnamurthy. A re-energised WR tightened the screws, and Sharma and left arm spinner Priti Dimri bowled some miserly overs. With the run rate climbing above five an over, Raj started running out of partners, as WR claimed  three more middle order wickets. Shortly after getting her half century, Raj holed out at long off off the bowling of Dimri, virtually sealing the game. SCR finally fell 10 runs short, handing a relieved WR their fourth straight championship.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Women's cricket inter railways : League stage overview

The league stages of the women's cricket inter railway tournament did throw up a few surprises, with last year's runner-up Northern Railway (NR) being eliminated, losing two of their three games. The squad, strengthened this year by the return of Rumeli Dhar and Jaya Sharma, would have expected a better showing but were beaten  by Eastern Railway (ER) and Southern Railway (SR). They managed a consolation win against North Central Railway (NCR) though. Neha Tanwar (74*) and Amita Sharma (65*)batted out of their skins to rescue their side from a shaky  30 for 5,  to eventually chase NCR's total of 193.

The league match between SR and NCR also provided ample excitement. After bowling NCR out for , Southern crumbled under the pressure of some accurate spin bowling and kept losing wickets at regular intervals. With things looking bleak, Salma Banu, coming in at number nine, looked to be steering her side to an unlikely win with a calm 20*. With one to win off  five balls and one wicket in hand, her partner spooned a simple catch to square leg and handed NCR a tie.

The tie meant Eastern Railway had an outside chance of qualifying for the semi finals. Despite good performances by seamer Shubhlaxmi Sharma (six wickets in three matches) and Priyanka Roy (one half century), they were eventually pushed out on net run rate. NCR and SR  qualified for the knockout rounds, with SR topping the group.

In the other pool, holders and hosts Western Railway (WR) dominated both their encounters. They stumbled in their batting against an inexperienced Central Railway (CR) team, courtesy CR captain Nidhi Buley's four wicket haul, but their bowling attack never let the CR batters get going. They eventually won by 76 runs. Against a South Central (SCR) team that rested Mithali Raj and Gouher Sultana, WR seamers Snehal Pradhan and Kavita Patil delivered telling blows on a wicket that offered some assistance, snaring the top four batters in their opening spells. They reaped the benefits of bowling within the stumps; all four wickets were either bowled or LBW. SCR folded for 120 allowing WR an easy win.

WR will now host NCR while SCR take on SR in the semi finals.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Other Domestic Title : Women's Cricket Inter Railways Preview

The women's domestic cricket season is about to begin, but as a precursor, an equally high quality tournament will commence in Mumbai. 7 women's teams will vie for the coveted Inter-Railway trophy, a prize that for some is as big as winning the domestic title in itself.

The women's cricket inter railways have never been short on quality. Just to give you an idea, out of the 15 women who represented India in the recent Women's World Cup in March 2013, 10, including the captain, are employed by the Railways. Even a look at the most recent India camp tells the same story: 15 out of the 25 girls draw their salaries from the Railways.

The Indian Railways has emerged as almost the sole employer for talented women cricketers since the BCCI took over women's cricket in 2006. Previous to this, Air India was the other company that employed women cricketers, although largely on yearly contracts. Bowling spearhead Jhulan Goswami is one of the few who the airline offered permanent jobs. But post 2006, when Air India no longer found a place in the BCCI's yearly domestic tournaments, the team disbanded. This meant that most young talents, whose skills were good enough to earn jobs, were absorbed by the Railways. Which also gives the Indian Railways a deep and diverse talent pool to pick from, making the Indian Railways team the team to beat on the domestic circuit. Indeed, post 2006, the Railways team has lost only one final, winning all other titles across all formats, every year till date.

Which brings us back to the this year's edition of this battle for pride and glory among 7 of India's many Railway zones. The hosts Western Railway will start as favourites, having won the last three consecutive editions. With young, high quality batters like Punam Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy and  veteran Sunetra Paranjape in the ranks, they will look to cash in on any loose bowling. Despite strength and depth in both departments, the Reema Malhotra led side will need to use the home ground advantage to the fullest to stave off likely challengers Northern and South-Central Railway. South-Central, led by Indian skipper Mithali Raj, boast a strong batting line up and a bowling attack comprising 3 talented left-arm spinners, including Indian team regular Gouher Sultana. Northern will rely on veteran Amita Sharma, whose shrewd captaincy is to be looked out for.  Southern railway, who finished an unexpected third last season,will look to continue their upward graph.

 Even without the ever present chance of an upset, the inter railways provide many reasons for cricket aficionados to tune in to the scores,even in the week when Mumbai will bid farewell to it's favourite son. New stars often rise over the same horizon into which a glorious sun sets.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Rolling in the deep

The outfield, better known simply as "the deep" is where I love fielding. Whether it's casually sipping electral at third man while my opening partner is having her go at the opponents, or whether it's prowling the boundaries in the death overs, I love being there.

I love being the one the captain goes to when we have a batter on fire and deep mid-wicket needs protection;and doing the yards by running from long on to long on every over at the fag end of a T20 game (hopefully having already completed my quota of overs). Running along the boundary and putting in that slide (which I can never manage on my left side), or judging that skier and holding on to it just inside the ropes, gives me a real high.

The deep is a place of solitude, away from the bustle and chatter that goes on in the infield. It's a place where I can slow down and think, and I have seen a few captains using this space to adjust to a fast moving game. At the same time, I can't totally relax there. At any moment a ball may come rocketing towards me, like a puck across ice, attempting to beat my outstretched fingers and collide with that rope. With the infield, I know every ball could come at me, so close to the bat as I am. But in the deep, it's easy to think that the infielders will stop it, so it's much easier to go to sleep, and much more satisfying when I don't.

Those left handers are a bother though. Running up and down every ball, switching from off side to on side, infield to outfield, I would be lying if I said I didn't mind it! Always a streak of relief in the celebrations every time a southpaw is dismissed!

I was originally thinking of writing a poem on this topic (yes, I do have a job), but couldn't come up with enough rhymes. So this post will have to do! Hopefully have struck a chord with those who patrol the fences, agile limbs, strong throws and all! For now, laters..


There came a point where some posts on my blog could only be read by people who spoke a certain language : I am talking of course, about cricket lovers! So it made sense that I create a new outlet where I could freely rant and ramble about this crazy complicated game we love, without subjecting my not so sport savvy friends to my views on right and left handedness, among other things! This, my fellow willow and leather lovers, is our sacred space!