In search of retribution, Ganesh Satish lights up Kotla

Sandip G

Ganesh Satish quickfire 100* against Delhi. (Source: BCCI Domestic Twitter)

There was only one engrossing contest throughout the third day of the Delhi-Vidarbha fixture, between and the fading light, as he approached his century. For most of the afternoon, the sun was blazing, but after he hurtled to his mid-70s, the light began to deteriorate rapidly. “After every ball, I felt the visibility was getting poorer,” he later told this paper.

So between deliveries, he would peer at the waning sun and the scoreboard, before he would turn towards the direction of the dressing-room balcony, where he met reassuring glances. Though Vidarbha’s lead had crossed 300—eventually declaring at 330/3 and setting Delhi a steep target of 347—they wouldn’t declare until Sathish completed his three-figure mark. But he was eating up time and he didn’t want to keep his teammates waiting for his landmark, he didn’t want his hundred to rob precious overs of his bowling colleagues’ quest to grab six points.

So after a few stealthy singles that took him to 85, he decided to unleash the big strokes that had earned him recognition in the KSCA league back home in Bangalore. It didn’t matter that the pitch was sluggish and ball 75-odd over old, a combination than made stroke-play difficult. The third delivery of the tired Simarjeet Singh’s 17th over was pulled over square-leg. The ball seemed to reach him in slow motion after pitching, but he patiently waited for it before swivelling his body almost 180 degrees to impart power on the shot. He reached 91.

The next ball, Simarjeet attempted a yorker, a poor imitation at that as it turned out to be a low full-toss that he lofted over long-on with a neat flick of the bottom hand. A smile broke out on his face, even as the on-field umpires pulled out the light-metre. He knew the light was good enough for a few more overs. In trundled in part-time off-spinner Nitish Rana, whose fifth ball he smuggled a single to wildly celebrate his 16th first-class hundred in the near-darkness of Kotla. Vidarbha declared immediately before their spinners delivered a few anxious moments for Delhi batsmen in two overs, before the umpires decided that the light was too poor for the game to continue.

Every hundred is a retribution for Satish, for he was blamed throughout his career for not converting starts to hundreds, hundreds to daddy hundreds. There is a certain amount of truth too, as he has converted only 16 of his 34 half-centuries to hundreds. It hardly mattered that some of his fifties and hundreds have come in the big games, like the 117 in the Ranji Trophy final against Maharashtra in 2014, which they won. But the next season, a couple of poor scores found him out of the team.

The competition for batting spots in the treble-winning Karnataka team was intense, what with KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal and Robin Uthappa were jostling for spots. All of whom were already India players or went onto represent the country. But Satish felt unhinged because he didn’t have a stable batting spot, was pushed up and the order, and yet thrust to the cold after a few bad performances. “I was not given a long rope and I was obviously disappointed. When I asked them why, they would ask me how many hundreds I have made. Then how many hundreds would you expect from someone who often bats in the lower middle-order?” he asks.

Vidarbha’s batting bulwark

Then came the Vidarbha request, which he readily accepted, and has in the last five years emerged as one of their batting bulwarks. The stats clearly capture the story. With Karnataka his stats read 2504 runs at an average of 34 including six hundreds. With Vidarbha, he has racked up 3589 runs at 55.5, in the process registering 10 hundreds and a career-high of 237. But even with Vidarbha last year, he went through a century-less patch. “Last year, there was a time a when I scored six 50-plus scores but couldn’t convert any. Many of the 50s contributed to our victory, and I am happy if the team wins even I don’t score a hundred. But I had learned at a young age that it’s how everybody judges a batsman. Everybody remembers centuries,” he says.

His 92-ball hundred in Kotla was memorable for various reasons. It would be remembered for his daring stroke-play as well as the window it opened for the defending champions to push for an outright win. When he came out to bat, Vidarbha were 138/2, with Wasim Jaffer perishing after a miniature masterpiece on artful batting. The other batsman Sanjay Ramaswamy is an old-school anchor, so for Vidarbha to settle for a formidable score and yet give their bowlers sufficient time to bowl Delhi out, they needed someone to accumulate quick runs. Satish telegraphed his intentions straightaway, lacing the first two balls he faced for boundaries behind point.

More than half of his boundaries, and half of his runs, came behind square, which’s instructive of his preferred strokes. He would employ the cut at the slightest hint of width, to both seamers and pacers. He would slouch low in his trigger movement, then rise with the ball and lash his fast hands at the ball, the supple wrist furnishing the placement. Mat cricket in KSCA leagues, he attributes the fluency of his cuts.

To their blame, the dispirited Delhi bowlers pampered his biggest strength, bowling either short or back-of-length to him. They offered little fight or contest, on a day the only meaningful contest was between Satish and the fading lights in his quest for retribution.

Brief scores: Vidarbha 179 and 330/3 decl (Ganesh Sathish 100 not out, Akshay Wadkar 70). Delhi 163 and 10/0.