Recent Match Report – South Zone vs West Zone Final 2023

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West Zone 129 for 7 (Shaw 65, Kaverappa 4-44, Vyshak 2-29) trail South Zone 213 (Vihari 63, Mulani 3-29, Gaja 2-27) by 84 runs

Vidwath Kaverappa is 24 years old. He isn’t what you’d define as a tearaway quick. But he’s lively and can certainly leave batters in a daze with his quick arm-speed, zip and movement off the pitch both ways. It’s an incredible skill to have, all-natural and honed from his early days on the hockey field, from when he learnt to manoeuvre his wrists with the stick.

Kaverappa only began bowling with the cricket ball seriously when he was 18, when he moved to Bengaluru from Coorg, the hockey heartland, to attend pre-university college. And being away from home meant that he felt the need to keep himself engaged to prevent being homesick. He chose to spend time on the cricket field, a decision he certainly isn’t regretting now.

Why would he? The national selectors watched him dismiss Suryakumar Yadav, Sarfaraz Khan, and Cheteshwar Pujara on a leaden afternoon at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium to crack open the Duleep Trophy final. West Zone were beginning to wrest control after dismissing South Zone for 213. At 97 for 1, Kaverappa struck the first of his four blows, by dismissing the well-set Harvik Desai and breaking the game open.

Then, in an engaging passage where he bowled unchanged – except, of course, a couple of breaks came his way in the form of rain intervals – he transformed his figures to 12-3-22-4. More than the dismissals themselves, the manner in which he got them further reinforced how far he’s come along since starting out wanting to make a name in athletics, hockey, and even netball, where he represented Karnataka at the nationals.

Suryakumar should’ve been out first ball to a perfectly laid trap of bowling short with a deep-square and fine leg in place. Vijaykumar Vyshak had him hooking only for Washington Sundar to put down a chance and palm the ball over the ropes for six. Next ball, Suryakumar top-edged a pull that landed short of fine leg. But three balls later, Kaverappa reaped the rewards for his patience by squaring Suryakumar up with a lifter that had him awkwardly fending to second slip where Hanuma Vihari was waiting to pouch it.

Two overs later, after testing Sarfaraz Khan – on cue – with three short deliveries, Kaverappa had Sarfaraz glued to the crease and managed to dart a full-ish delivery back in to hit him on the knee roll. Kaverappa knew he’d had his man even before the umpire raised the finger. Sarfaraz reviewed in vain, and West Zone, who were in cruise control at 97 for 1 in reply to South’s 213, suddenly found themselves wobbling at 116 for 5.

It helped Kaverappa that there was excellent control from the other end in the form of Vyshak, his Karnataka state mate. Vyshak went around the stumps and peppered Cheteshwar Pujara with short balls while Kaverappa went on a full-blown attack in a terrific exhibition of late reverse swing, bringing the ball back in. This would eventually account for Pujara’s wicket late in the day as he flicked a delivery on middle and leg to the short-square-leg position.

Kaverappa would soon lead his team off the park, having delivered a telling spell that gave South Zone complete control of proceedings, with West tottering on 129 for 7, still trailing by 84 runs. That this comes hot on the heels of a five-for in the semi-final against North Zone makes the feat more impressive.

But such performances aren’t a surprise for those who’ve watched him come up the ranks quickly. In the Ranji Trophy 2022-23, he picked up 30 wickets in eight games at an average of 20.43. He’s part of a pace battery alongside Vyshak and Vasuki Koushik that has helped Karnataka seamlessly transition from the heady swing-bowling days of R Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and S Aravind.

Sure, the conditions were in favour of the bowlers, but the batters still needed to be forced into making mistakes, which Kaverappa did superbly. Irfan Pathan, who worked with the Under-19 players at the NCA, is “excited” at the prospect of watching Kaverappa develop further. Those watching from the stands, Shreyas Iyer among them, were certainly engrossed in watching a bowler wheel away with intensity.

Kaverappa may go on to bowl better spells, but many years later, it’s entirely possible there may be a soft corner for the one he just delivered in the 2023-24 Duleep final.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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