Ghaziabad: Imtiaz Ahmed, the medium pacer from Uttar Pradesh, was an unknown figure until he picked up a five-wicket haul against the star-studded Delhi on the opening day of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy Friday.
The 26-year-old, playing only his seventh first-class match, came instantly into the limelight when he took the wickets of Gautam Gambhir, the India opener, and Mithun Manhas, a seasoned batsman in the domestic circuit, besides hoovering up the tail. "I was told by [Suresh] Raina to bowl a tight line and I stuck with that plan. It was quite exciting to bowl against the batsmen of [Virender] Sehwag and Gambhir’s calibre and I am happy that I did well," Imtiaz said after the day’s play.
The paceman struck early when Gambhir shouldered arms to a delivery that kept its line after pitching. And then he had Manhas caught behind when the Delhi batsman had scored 42 and was looking good for a big score. With the wickets of Pradeep Sangwan, caught beautifully by Raina in second slip, Puneet Bisht, bowled for 52, and Ashish Nehra, trapped lbw, Imtiaz completed his first five-wicket haul.
About his bowling spell,Imtiaz said, "Though it was hazy throughout the day, we didn't get as much assistance in the air as we expected. We got more help off the wicket than in the air."
Motivation from Raina and team's head coach, Venkatesh Prasad and bowling coach Ashish Winston Zaidi helped him a great deal, said Imtiaz. "I also got a lot of motivation from Zaidi sir and Venky sir [Venkatesh Prasad]. Raina was also motivated me throughout my spells, so as PK [Praveen Kumar] and Bhuvneshwar Kumar."
Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya, on the other hand, defended his star players Sehwag and Gambhir's poor show, saying it's part and parcel of the game.
"Gautam was batting really well and everyone saw how he got out. I mean that's part and parcel of the game. About Viru, he hit a couple of fantastic shots and he is someone who always backs himself. Initially, there was some help for the bowlers and some of our batsmen played false shots.”
Dahiya also said the pitch at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium has something for the bowlers and and an outright result is very much a possibility. "It's a good wicket and when I mean a good wicket, it's such a strip where bowlers get some help. I would back my bowlers to do a good job and also hope that there will be a result."