Ranji Trophy 2021-22 – Shahrukh Khan hits 194 to light up Tamil Nadu’s Ranji opener

Characteristic

He came in at 162 for 5 and secured a first set lead despite Delhi racking up 452

After causing a stir at the IPL Mega Auction last weekend with his white ball heroism, M Shahrukh Khan of Tamil Nadu caused another sensation this weekend, slamming a century of 89 balls at the Ranji Trophy match against Delhi. The 26-year-old nearly converted his first-class first hundred into a double century as Tamil Nadu overhauled 452 from Delhi to Guwahati.
By the time Shahrukh was trapped lbw by Nitish Rana’s part-time deflection in the third day post-tea session, Tamil Nadu was on top. Left arm fingerpinner Vikas Mishra, however, quickly cleared the tail and beat Tamil Nadu for 494 stumps, limiting their lead to 42.
Tamil Nadu snatching the first set advantage looked unlikely as Shahrukh joined former captain B Indrajith at 162 for 5. Current captain Vijay Shankar had just offered a stupid one-point bat-pad hold for five. R Sai Kishore, the night watchman, and M Kaushik Gandhi, the opener, had fallen earlier in the morning as Delhi dominated early exchanges.

Sai Kishore (11) was taken aback by a direct hit from Lalit Yadav while Gandhi (55) fired a quick arrow from Mishra. Shahrukh then immediately changed the mood and pace of the game with a barrage of limits.

He had started temperamentally, beating a weak pull past midfield, but stuck to his usual attacking instincts and set about twisting Delhi’s attack. Shahrukh was particularly brutal on left arm setter Kuldip Yadav, taking him for 50 from just 20 balls. In total, he beat 20 fours and 10 sixes.

That Sharukh is particularly strong against the beat is pretty well established in Indian national circles. Recently, during the Vijay Hazare 50+ trophy, Prasidh Krishna also felt the power of Shahrukh. On Saturday, while his counter-pacing would have been the game’s most notable pass, it was his patience and technique against rotations that highlighted his growth as an all-format national hitter.

It was either forward to smother Mishra’s spinning balls, or backward – when the bowler pulled the length back – to cut it or push it away. In all, he hit 29 out of 48 balls against Mishra. Over the past couple of years, Tamil Nadu assistant coach R Prasanna has had a variety of homegrown Shahrukh bowlers at net and all of that training has been put to good use against Delhi.

On his Ranji debut in 2018, Shahrukh set up the Tamil Nadu win with a 92-step first run on an atypical Chepauk track that helped setters. He has only played four-class matches since before this Ranji season, but there are already signs that Shahrukh could be a match-winner in red ball cricket as well.
“Touch wood things are going well for me in white ball cricket for Tamil Nadu. I feel people are marking fast that he is just a white ball player but I want to do well and achieve the next level in all formats,” Shahrukh had told ESPNcricinfo heading into this Ranji season.

“I want to make big runs in the Ranji trophy. I could also beat the order in red ball cricket and I want to handle those situations better, with Prasanna as an example. He bailed out Tamil Nadu from so many situations by swinging conditions. The margin of error in red ball cricket is much less and I like that challenge.”

Shahrukh followed the conversation, starting quick positions with Indrajith and then N Jagadeesan. Shahrukh had conjured up the stand of the century with Indrajith in grand style with a raspy cut on Kuldip’s backspot – a real candidate for the hit of the day. Indrajith was more aggressive and proactive against spinning, often disrupting lengths and lines by jumping out of the crease.

Indrajith hit his hundred balls on 126 when he slid Kuldip to the third-man boundary on the 71st for 22 runs. Seven overs later, however, Rana pinned it lbw with an offbreak that shot low. However, there would be no stopping Shahrukh, as he entered the 90s with a pair of sixes.

After reaching his own century, with a single to long leg, he seemingly pointed to his white jersey and soaked in the applause of the Tamil Nadu camp. Shahrukh then only needed 24 balls to go from one hundred to 150.

After a slow start, Jagadeesan also kicked into high gear, pitching Mishra for six years longer and longer at 92nd. At one point Delhi extended the pitch, deploying outfielders in the middle of the deep wicket, a deep square leg back and long, but Shahrukh continued to pepper that arc or clear those outfielders.

Rana and Mishra made some late strikes for Delhi but it was Shahrukh’s weekend again.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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