NEW DELHI: Everything at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Thursday morning seemed to be about Gautam Gambhir. Unlike what is normal for a Ranji Trophy match, there were a handful of fans holding up a placard wishing Gambhir, playing his final game of competitive cricket, a happy retired life.
Every now and then, a few of them yelled out at him from the stands to draw his attention even as a painter tried to capture the essence of his last competitive match.
Then there was Ricky Bhui, all of 22 years, who also went about his job like an artist to build one of the better innings of this season, denying Gambhir a crack with the bat on Day One of the Ranji tie between Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. Bhui remained unbeaten on 150 at stumps, promising to add a few more to the score of 266/7.
For the first 90 minutes, everything seemed to go as per Delhi’s plan, as the visitors slumped to 48/4 on a damp and spinning pitch. But Bhui had other plans. With Hanuma Vihari travelling with the Indian Test team, he seamlessly slipped into the role of being the lead batsman for Andhra. His display was such that it easily overshadowed Subodh Bhati’s fivewicket haul on his Delhi comeback.
“I was getting frustrated with a few batsmen throwing their wickets away. But I had to control my emotions and curb my natural game,” Bhui said. He is part of the last batch of players who were allowed to play two U-19 World Cups by BCCI. While his U-19 batch mates Rishabh Pant and Khaleel Ahmed have played for India, and Avesh Khan and Ishan Kishan are being identified as reserves, he has struggled to stay in the limelight.
“U-19 cricket does help but the earlier you can play first-class the better,” Bhui said in acknowledgement of the board’s decision to limit players to just one U-19 World Cup. “I had a surgery last year. That pegged me back but I am just 22, I can still make the grade.”
It wasn’t just about keeping Gambhir waiting to get his turn to bat. Every time he stepped out to the spinners with authority and lunged forward to the seamers with conviction, Bhui was denting Delhi’s hopes of reviving their stuttering campaign.
Bhati did concede that he bowled with anger to prove the selectors wrong but he may have to do a little bit more to stop Bhui on Friday morning.