Deepak Punia returned to Delhi on Sunday from the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) camp, where he was drafted in as stand-bye.
A day later, he showed why the franchise thinks so highly of him.
The 29-year-old blazed away to an unbeaten 35-ball 73 (9x6s, 2x4s), adding 122 for the unconquered fifth wicket in just over 11 overs with Yash Sehrawat (99 not out), to take Rann Star Cricket Club to a six-wicket win over Vidya Jain Cricket Academy in the inaugural match of the 46th edition of Lala Raghubir Singh Memorial Cricket tournament here on Monday.
The right-handed batsman has a rare distinction of representing four first-class teams in domestic cricket despite being in the circuit for just over eight years.
“I have played one season for Services, two for Saurashtra (reaching the Ranji final once) and three for Haryana before switching to Delhi,” said Punia after the match in which he also took 3/33 with the new ball. The effort earned him man-of-the-match award.
Punia was picked in Delhi’s Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 squad in the season gone-by.
“I had left job in Services (posted with Indian Navy in Mumbai) because I wanted to stay closer to my parents as they were alone. I also wanted to play Ranji for the top-tier teams to hope for a crack at higher cricket,” he added.
“Hopefully, my performances here will help me get a place in Delhi squad and also in the SRH IPL franchise for the next season,” said the bowler who says he bowls at around 140 kmph.
When Punia had walked in, Rann Star were in a spot of bother.
“A few wickets had gone down and the pressure was on us. Vidya Jain Academy had begun to dominate and applied pressure. I took time to settle in a bit. But when I sensed opportunity to open my arms, I unleashed some strokes. I hit three sixes off Jonty Sidhu. The field started opening up after that and we got back into the match,” he said further.
The Vidya Jain Academy total of 274/9 was built on the century of Delhi batsman Hiten Dalal (123 off 85 balls).
With the team fielding at least four youngsters, the onus was on Dalal to take the innings deep.
“I didn’t open, but went one-down. Basic idea for me was to play cricketing shots, and not be adventurous. I had to take the maximum responsibility and opened up only when I realised there was a chance to,” said the 28-year-old Dalal.
“I tried to take the innings as deep as possible. Unfortunately, I was dismissed with nine overs still remaining. If I had stayed till the end, we would have reached a competitive total. We fell 50-60 runs short of it,” added Dalal.