Wednesday, 20 June, 2007

Ajay Chavan on a comeback trail

B D Narayankar

PUNE: He has attracted many epithets this summer: a crisis man, a player with lot of guts, and a hungry bowler on the prowl. Being second highest wicket-taker in the MCA Senior Invitation Super League Tournament, Ajay Chavan has moved from the echelons of a fable into a realm of reality. He has forced selectors to consider him for selection in the Maharashtra Ranji team.

Chavan was unlucky to have been sidelined after Munaf Patel’s induction in Maharashtra squad for 2006 Ranji season. Till then, he was a force to reckon with.

Chavan was selected for Maharashtra team in 2005 when Hrishikesh Kanitkar was the captain. He grabbed the only chance coming his way, bagging five wickets against Tamil Nadu in Chennai.

With this kind of performance, Chavan should have been playing the next Ranji season too. But fate was not in Chavan's favour. Kanitkar's removal from the captaincy, hiring West Indian Darren Holder as Maharashtra coach and his preference for Munaf Patel, relegated Chavan to oblivion.

Not that Chavan has not been bowling well all these years. There were times when he was getting more wickets in league matches than those who had been selected for Maharashtra Ranji team.

This summer, Chavan has picked up 46 wickets in the league matches, next only to the highest wicket-taker Samad Fallah, who is sitting pretty with 69 wickets haul.

Chavan has been causing panic in the opposition dressing room regularly. He has dismissed 11 different batsmen in last two games, which denotes a faint psychological hold.

Word ‘transformation’ does not mean anything for Chavan as he has been performing consistently picking up 40-odd wickets every season. And yet he has been shown the stick by Maharashtra selectors.

This one-cap wonder, has been right there for Poona Club launching his comeback prominently, getting three wickets per match on an average against obliging batsmen.

If selected, his natural swing and pace – honed by a decade of domestic toil with Poona Club – could come in handy when some of India’s celebrated stars threaten havoc on flatter domestic tracks. For the moment, his performance is a touch above than his previous exploits.

"I still believe I can play for Maharashtra. Bowlers actually hone their skills at 29. Playing for Maharashtra is what you work hard for in invitation cricket. I always believe I can perform and the ball is been swinging around for me. But I don't think too far ahead. I am just happy to be here,” Chavan said.

He may lack Munaf Patel’s bite, but the seething urge within to perform good seems to be doing the trick.

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