Ranji Trophy: Parth controls Saurashtra’s fear with 111* at No 9

WHILE playing cricket all these years, Saurashtra’s No 9 Parth Bhut always wished for a day in his life when he could replicate an innings like MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli’s.

He dreamt of an outing on the pitch where he bats with fellow tailenders and rescues his team. Tuesday will be a day long remembered.

All those years of visualisation finally turned to reality, as Bhut found a situation against Punjab where rescuing was required. There was no target in coloured clothing, but a Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at stake with his team struggling to post a decent first innings total.

Saurashtra were 147 for 8 with their top-order line up back in the dressing room. Punjab’s bowlers must have felt an early wrap-up was imminent, but Bhut had other plans.

His rivals didn’t know that all this time, the 25-year-old Junagad left-arm spinner and batsman had been preparing for just this kind of scenario. “Take the innings deep,” he kept telling himself while facing each ball.

“All these years I have seen MS Dhoni and tried to follow his technique in how he takes the game so deep (when chasing). I have closely followed Virat Kohli’s batting on TV on how he assesses the situation and scores big in those tense moments. So when I was batting, I was just remembering those points,” Bhut said after his unbeaten 111.

While he was batting, he kept talking to number ten, Chetan Sakariya. They didn’t want to play rash shots and get out, instead they wanted to play calculated cricket. They added 61 runs for the ninth wicket. “I told Chetan that we will bat positively and will not get bothered about the scoreboard. We batted over by over, and followed Dhoni’s strategy which has been simple. Take the game deep, once we reach that stage, the bowlers must get tired and the fielders will be a bit relaxed. Then we will pick bowlers, whom we can go after,” Bhut adds.

Poor start at home

At his home ground, Saurashtra had won the toss and elected to bat first in their quarter-final game in Rajkot’s Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. Opener Snell Patel held one end up as the Saurashtra top-order saw wickets falling at regular intervals with Punjab’s leggie Mayank Markande and seamer Baltej Singh sharing the day’s honours.

Before Bhut struck his maiden first class century which had four sixes and 11 fours. Alongwith Yuvrajsinh Dodiya, he added 95 runs for the last wicket as Saurashtra were bundled out for 303.

Being a tailender, Bhut says he had an idea how to bat with lower-order batsmen and it helped his team launch a fight back from their precarious start.

Bhut’s father is a property dealer back in Junagadh, and the performance holds a special place. He took cricket seriously only because he accompanied his friend to the nets in the neighbourhood, but Bhut is enjoying the run at the top.

Before the game, he wasn’t sure whether he would even make it to the playing eleven. The past two games he went back to the bench as he had to make way for Ravindra Jadeja, who played against Tamil Nadu in Chennai. “I wasn’t sure whether the team management will play me or not. I was told this morning that I’m there because they wanted to take a call only after seeing the pitch. At the end, it feels great to walk back unbeaten and everyone cheering for the contribution, hope I do perform with the ball too,” he added.

Brief Score: Saurashtra 303 all out (Snell Patel 70, P Bhut 111 not out; Mayank Markande 4/84, Baltej Singh 3/60) vs Punjab 3 for no loss.

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