Debutant Ashutosh Singh shows his class with a maiden century : Ashutosh is just 22 years of age. He is young, promising and mature. He is somewhat expressive also. He is hungry for runs too.
All these qualities of Ashutosh were on display in the opening encounter of the Ranji Trophy 2016-17, when the debutant team Chattisgarh, led by the experienced Mohammad Kaif, went on to register their maiden victory by defeating the relatively experienced side Tripura by 9 wickets in the match played at JSCA International Stadium Complex, Ranchi.
Tripura opted to bat, on winning the toss. However, the Chattisgarh bowlers, Abhuday Kant Singh (10-3-20-2), Shakeeb Ahmed (8-1-24-1), Pratik Sinha (11-8-13-2) and Ajay Mandal (11-2-41-3) – all debutants – and the relatively experienced left-arm spinner, Sumit Ruikar (14-8-20-2) made short work of the Tripura batsmen and restricted them to just 118 runs in the first innings.
For Tripura, only four batsmen – Yashpal Singh (26), Abhijit Dey (32), Rajat Dey (24) and Gurinder Singh (13) could reach double digits.
Commencing their reply, Chattisgarh were reduced to 6 runs for the fall of 2 wickets in 5.5 overs. It is at this juncture the young debutant, Ashutosh Singh, walked to the middle and literally took control of the situation.
Patiently he built up partnerships. He was sure if he could put his head down and play, he would be able to steer the team to a position of safety. He was aware that the experienced and seasoned campaigner, Mohd Kaif, his skipper, was yet to follow.
To start with, Ashutosh added 43 runs for the third wicket alongwith Rishabh Tiwari (31). Next, for the fourth wicket, Singh was accompanied by Mohd Kaif (27) and the duo added another 62 runs for the fourth wicket. This, incidentally, also proved to be the ‘best partnership’ for any wicket in the match.
The wicket-keeper, Vivek Naidu (19), then gave a good support to Ashutosh and the partnership realised a valuable 41 runs for the sixth wicket.
The seventh wicket partnership between Ashutosh and Shakeeb Ahmed (17) yielded 36 runs while for the 10th wicket, Singh added a good 43 runs alongwith the pacer Abhuday Kant Singh (0).
These useful partnerships helped Ashutosh to gradually build the innings and helped his team finish their first knock with 255 runs on the board and take a vital first innings lead of 137 runs.
Playing an innings of almost seven hours (413 minutes), facing 275 deliveries, sending the ‘red cherry’ to the ropes 16 times and once beyond, the young Ashutosh Singh, was the last man to be out, caught and bowled by Abhijit Dey, but not before registering his maiden Ranji Trophy century. Singh scored 140 runs and that was almost equal to the first innings lead taken by his team.
Restricting the opposition to 149 runs in the second knock, Chattisgarh won the tie by a huge margin of 9 wickets.
For his exploits with the bat, Ashutosh Singh was awarded the Player of the Match.
Speaking to Cricbuzz after the match, Singh said, “I never really thought that I”ll become the first centurion for Chhattisgarh. But yes, I always wanted to get a century on debut. I always had this in my mind that when I make my debut for Madhya Pradesh, I want to score a century in that. I always dreamt of what I”m going to do when I get to my century. I always thought how I”ll celebrate while taking that run, how I”ll react. This was something I really wanted”.
“When I was on 96 and nine wickets were down, I did pray to god that “give me just one over”. That”s what got me nervous. Now at this stage, after playing so much cricket, 100 isn”t an target anymore. You want more than that. Of course, when you are in the 90s, it”s always on the back of your mind but it”s not something that starts affecting the way you play,” he added.
Paying rich tributes to his team’s coach, Sulakshan Kulkarni and the skipper, Mohammad Kaif, young Singh said, “The work both Kaif and Kulkarni Sir have put in behind the scenes is just incredible. The move to get Kaif to lead the team was the best decision. They did plenty of work to get all the players on the same page and that”s why we see such a result”.
“I don”t think anyone thought they were making their debut. We feel so comfortable in this environment, that first match pressure was taken away. Of course, there was some nervousness but never really felt any pressure as such.”
Incidentally, in this match, Mohammad Kaif also reached the landmark of having scored 10,000 runs in First Class. He is the 46th player to do so, while the 45th player was Cheteshwar Pujara, who achieved this milestone in the recently concluded Duleep Trophy.