Pankaj puts price on wicket, Mumbai pay

That phrase, putting a price on your wicket, how does one quantify its abstractness? Or measure it in units of cricket's metric system? Can its cost be weighed in runs scored, or clocked in the time spent in the middle? Maybe, but not always.

On Saturday, a tailender from Rajasthan came closer than anyone else in this Ranji game to defining the meaning of that word 'price'. And he did so without scoring much or facing many balls. Just ask the men who paid it — Rohit Sharma's Mumbai.

Pankaj Singh scored 18 runs, faced 42 balls and spent 70 minutes on KL Saini's placid track. The effect was more than the sum of its parts. The number ten's imitation of batting (or whatever else he calls his motions with the willow) was worth every ridiculous gesture of it, forcing Mumbai's frustrated skipper to a point of hat-eating exasperation when he yelled: "Thoda jaan dikhao bhai log, please."

It fell on deaf ears as Pankaj's partnership of 62 with Rajasthan's wicketkeeper-batsman Dishant Yagnik for the ninth wicket ensured that Mumbai stayed under the sun for two hours more than any of them would have liked. Before he arrived at the crease, Rajasthan looked like they were going to be bowled out for less than 400. Pankaj's support to Yagnik ballooned their first innings total to nearly 500, in a match that will be decided on just that.

Whatever Mumbai's batters manage to do in this game over the remaining two days (they are currently 76 for no loss, three runs less than what the last two Rajasthan wickets added) it doesn't hide the fact that their bowling attack is at its lowest ebb. And a non-batsman helped expose that. Here's why.

Rajasthan had lost just two wickets on the first day. Today, on Day Two, the hosts lost three in the first session (Vineet Saxena without adding to his overnight score and Robin Bist and Ashok Menaria for cheap) and as many more early on in the second, having added just 130 runs to their overnight total of 269. With Rajasthan eight down for 399, Mumbai sniffed an end to this four session long torture. All they had to do was dismiss numbers ten and eleven.

... contd.

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