Kolkata: Natraj Behera, who led East Zone to the Duleep Trophy title, on Friday, credited Bengal pacer Ashok Dinda's seven-wicket haul in their semifinal against South as the turning point of their triumph in tournament. East Zone was adjudged the Duleep Trophy champions on basis of their first innings lead over Central Zone after both the teams played out a draw at Chepauk on Chennai on Thursday.
"It was really a tremendous effort by him. He had an amazing spell. His effort pumped up the spirit and we are all up there eyeing for our second title," the East Zone opener said on Friday. Dinda had claimed a match winning 7/26 for a nine-wicket match haul to edge out South Zone in the semifinals.
"I'm really excited about the feat (of winning the title twice). I'm told that it has never happened before. I'm sure it would act as a confidence-booster ahead of the Ranji Trophy," he said. The 24-year-old said that team spirit was as strong as that in the last season which was important for their campaign.
"The focus was on the team spirit. We almost had the same side -- barring Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami. But most were the same. My focus was to bring the best from the team. Even in good or bad phases, we wanted to play as a team."
Behera conceded that he "misread" the pitch in the rain-affected final, but was excited to have Anustup Majumdar as the surprise package. It was Majumdar, a top-order batsman, who emerged the unlikely bowling hero as he took four wickets for 29 runs to help East retain the Duleep Trophy from an unlikely position on Thursday. "We brought him as a partnership breaker (in the 70th over). He really surprised us. Being a wrist spinner, the slow turner really helped him," Behera said.
"Once we had (Mahesh) Rawat, the wickets began tumbling. With the overcast conditions, we hoped it would assist seamers but it turned out to be a slow turner," Behera said about playing three seamers and one spinner. In reply to East's modest 232, Central were bowled out for 189 to concede a 43-run lead and final match. "They (Central) were playing for a win, whereas our strategy was to defend the total. That really worked for us," he said.
Majumdar said, "I haven't bowled much in first-class cricket..I bowled off-spin in one or two first-class matches, although I began as a leg-spinner and a lower-order batsman in junior cricket. After that things changed a bit.
"On this wicket we had gone with only one spinner and three seamers, so I tried bowling, and I managed it. Leg-spinners are generally more inconsistent and I hadn't been practising leg-spin. I bowled a good ball, got a wicket (that of Mahesh Rawat) and my confidence went up. Then I got more consistent. I was just enjoying my bowling."
Iresh Saxena, who clinched 5/58, played a big part in the win with his consistency. "I knew Anustup bowled leg-spin because I'm also from Kolkata. I told Natraj to give him one of my overs, because I wanted to change ends. I wanted to change ends because I was not getting wickets, and I thought there was more purchase from the other end," said Iresh.