c Martin b Bhoite 0. Seven balls, thirteen minutes, offbreak padded away, bat nowhere in the picture, umpire raises finger, end of a 15-year career. It wasn't the best way to bid adieu, but it was probably the most symbolic. For nearly a minute, Sridharan Sharath stood transfixed, glaring at the umpire and repeated a question that's haunted him through his career: 'What did I do to deserve that?'
With 27 teams competing in two grades of Ranji the competition is so lopsided it is difficult to evaluate performances and distinguish good players from the ordinary. Also, given the general neglect, it will require much time and effort before this first-class structure becomes a finishing school that prepares players for international cricket.
Sadly, while there is scant evidence of any serious effort to mend things, there are enough signs to suggest nobody is really concerned. In a Elite game in Delhi, the umpires called off play — for bad light — around noon (!) and then disappeared from the ground. On another occasion the square leg umpire was merrily chatting on his cellphone, during play. The striker, disturbed by the chatter, walked up to him and politely requested that he speak a bit softly!
Dinesh Kaarthick is a very fine young cricketer and a wholehearted team man. His batting in the second innings at Durban was a revelation for both teams because he showed that if you ignored the pitch, it could indeed be ignored. Smith and Pollock were later to do the same and take the game away from India. In the first innings he batted four hours and showed he had a wise head, not just the excitable, jack-in-the-box one we had seen all along. And I loved the way he fielded anywhere on the ground.
It is rare for a wicketkeeper to possess a good throwing arm and yet he ran out a man from long off and would be a live-wire inside the circle in a limited overs game. India must find room for both, him and Dhoni, and a World Cup squad would be incomplete without either.