Big names fall in small town

CricketBhargav Bhatt was the best India A bowler in the first innings, finishing with seven wickets. (PTI)

For a moment you might have wondered whether the partisan Shimoga crowd had instantly shifted loyalties. Cheteshwar Pujara certainly must have as he walked back to the pavilion, his head bowed in disappointment. For the Jawaharlal Nehru National College of Engineering (JNNCE) ground was just witnessing its loudest cheer, probably ever. One that had been set off as soon as the India A skipper holed out at backward square-leg after top-edging a sweep.

The crescendo though had nothing to do with the dismissal of the most proficient Test batsmen in India presently. It rather had everything to do with the arrival of the man they had all come to see bat.

Unfortunately, they were silenced within 11 minutes. Virender Sehwag had failed them just like Gautam Gambhir had a while earlier. They had braved the Shimoga heat on the opening day of the unofficial Test too, turning Zaheer Khan into their cynosure, only to be let down by the senior pacer who got just one wicket.

While the VIPs limped off the stage, a couple of unfancied performers and a domestic behemoth ensured that the party wasn't a total flop. If Bhargav Bhatt outshone Zaheer by recording his best-ever first-class figures of 7/113, Kerala opener VA Jagadeesh and Abhishek Nayar ensured that the crowd got their voice back by batting India A into a good position at 190/3 in reply to West Indies A's 406 at JNNCE on Thursday.

Edgy Gambhir

The Shimoga faithful had created a ruckus every time the ball went anywhere near Gambhir and Sehwag even while the hosts were on the field. Though he did acknowledge their adulation on a couple of occasions with a wave, Gambhir in particular seemed too preoccupied otherwise.

The left-hander is generally considered an intense individual. But here in fact, Gambhir seemed obsessive with his batting, found shadow-practising for his eventual stint in the middle on numerous occasions while India A were on the field. He even ended up having an extended net after the first day's play.

... contd.

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