A padded up MS Dhoni, along with teammates and field staff, at JSCA’s oval grounds in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Wednesday’s smart clash with the Titans had left them brimming with confidence, but Thursday’s thriller was literally a damp squib for Jharkhand’s enterprising eleven.
Even before the state’s top Ranji squad could pitch themselves before their role model M.S. Dhoni, the rain god played spoilsport, prompting organisers to cancel the warm-up tie between Jharkhand XI and Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
“It was such a huge disappointment,” said S.P. Gautam, the 24-year-old wicketkeeper for Jharkhand XI who has 26 first class matches in his kitty. “The entire camp had been looking forward to this day. A golden opportunity (to play against Dhoni in his home town) was lost to bad weather,” Gautam rued.
He added that the only other highlight of the day — a match between India A and West Indies A — was not much of an entertainer either. “We (India A) lost. The squad was considered to be one of the strongest against West Indies, but still it was defeated.”
Incidentally, showers had interrupted Wednesday’s match between Jharkhand XI and the Titans too, but only in the last leg of the game. Thursday’s exposure match was scheduled at 2pm, but a depression in the Bay of Bengal soaked Ranchi and several parts of the state since morning.
Though the showers paused around 1.30pm, the damage was already done. “The ground staff tried to drain and dry the outfield, but in vain. As a result, our match had to be called off,” said all-rounder Sunny Gupta.
Considering their formidable opponents like the Titans and the format of the game, many, including South African coach Rob Walter, had hailed the home team’s performance on Wednesday.
“But all eyes were on the tie against CSK. Besides the Dhoni factor, the team also has many senior Indian players. So, it was an opportunity for us to rub shoulders with cricketing greats and do a reality check on our strong and weak points,” Gupta added.
Bowler Jaskaran Singh agreed. “We reached the stadium on time, but nothing was in our hands,” he said, adding that if the weather permitted, they would play a match against Brisbane Heat on Friday and another against Trinidad and Tobago the day after.
“But, the match with CSK was the highlight,” he said, dejection palpable in his voice.
Just like the boys of Jharkhand XI, Dhoni too had been eager to play the game.
Around 2pm, Dhoni was overheard requesting groundsmen to fix the field. “Outfield ko agar sukha payein aap log, toh kuch der mein game ho sakta hai. (If you guys can dry the outfield, the game can possibly be played),” he said.
But, the staff replied: “Agar iss condition mein khelein toh ghaas ukhad jayega jisse aur dikkat hogi. (If the match is held in this condition, the grass carpet will be damaged).”
CSK’s local manager Rajesh Verma said Dhoni and his boys practised at the indoor stadium for two hours in the afternoon, followed by the other three teams.
BCCI chief and CSK owner N. Srinivasan arrived in Ranchi late in the evening. He is expected to be in the capital for a couple of days to motivate his team.