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Ranji Trophy: Top guns disappoint on Day 1

For Punjab’s Shubman Gill, it was a golden chance to get some runs against the red ball before the Edgbaston Test against England starting July 1. But he failed to capitalize on the opportunity, managing only 9 against Madhya Pradesh on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals.

Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw, both of whom will be nursing hopes of a return to the top of the Indian batting order, had torrid outings too. Agarwal scored 10 off 41 balls, while Shaw managed a flashy 21.

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Gill in search of his off-stump

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In December 2019, the venue was Dhruv Pandove Stadium, Patiala. On the eve of the match, Mohammed Siraj was talking to his Hyderabad captain Tanmay Agarwal about Gill’s tentativeness about the ball on off-stump.

โ€œUsko off pe daalo maximum ball, wo tentative rehta hai (Bowl the off-stump line to him, he is not comfortable there).โ€ Next day, Siraj took four deliveries to dismiss Gill. A good-length delivery on off-stump was edged to wicketkeeper Sumanth Kolla.

Cut to Monday and Puneet Datey, not as quick as Siraj, got Gill with the same length. The only difference was this time Gill decided to leave it, only for the ball to hit the seam, nip back and kiss the bails. A clueless Gill stood there for a moment before making the walk back to the pavilion.

Gill had a great IPL season with Gujarat Titans. He amassed 483 runs and guided the franchise to the title in their inaugural season. But it is in the red-ball format where his form has slumped. Since a 91 in the second innings in Brisbane in early 2021, he has managed only two fifties in his next 13 innings. His weakness against the moving ball has forced the Indian management to consider him in the middle order.

Flashy Shaw

It is either boom or bust for Shaw. He played some eye-catching strokes during his brief stay at the crease for Mumbai. Just like his Under-19 teammate of him Gill, Shaw has chinks in the armor. His tendency to play away from the body has been a reason for concern. Trent Boult and Tim Southee first found that bat-pad gap in Wellington. Next year in Adelaide, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins exploited the same vulnerability.

On Monday against Uttarakhand, Shaw dominated proceedings early on but got out in the same fashion. This time the bowler was Deepak Dhapola. A ball nipped back on the stumps, Shaw failed to get his bat down in time, and the ball went through the gate.

Troubled Mayank

Agarwal, whom the selectors omitted from the Test squad after a string of poor scores in South Africa, had a torrid time at the crease against Uttar Pradesh, specifically Shivam Mavi. Agarwal had scored only 135 runs in six innings with only one half-century in India’s 1-2 Test series loss against South Africa.

At the other end, his fellow Karnataka opener Ravikumar Samarth was scoring at a brisk pace, but Agarwal was finding it difficult to negotiate the Uttar Pradesh pace trio of Yash Dayal, Ankit Rajpoot and Mavi.

It was against Mavi that he looked most uncomfortable. The pacer beat his outside edge several times, hit him on the ribs, flooring Agarwal. Mavi kept on hitting the off-stump line, and finally found the edge, wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel completing the formality behind the stumps.

During the South Africa series, Sunil Gavaskar had raised a question mark on Agarwal’s technique.

โ€œAgarwal is a very good player when the ball is hitting the middle of the bat, for the simple reason that he’s got that lovely little push. But when the ball moves a little bit, that bat speed gets him into trouble,โ€ the former India skipper had said in commentary.

Brief Scores

Mumbai vs Uttarakhand

Mumbai 304 for 3 in 86 overs (Suved Parkar 104 batting, Sarfaraz Khan 69 batting, Armaan Jaffer 60; Deepak Dhapola 3/53)

Karnataka vs Uttar Pradesh

Karnataka 213 for 7 in 72 overs (R Samarth 57; Saurab Kumar 4/67, Shivam Mavi 3/40)

Bengal vs Jharkhand

Bengal 310 for 1 in 89 overs (Sudip Gharami 106 not out; Anustup Majumdar 85 not out, Abhimanyu Easwaran 65)

Punjab vs Madhya Pradesh

Punjab 219 all out in 71.3 overs (Abhishek Sharma 47, Anmolpreet Singh 47, Sanvir Singh 41; Puneet Datey 3/48, Anubhav Agarwal 3/36)

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