INDORE: Wasim Jaffer swivelled on his ageing toes to hook Delhi’s left-arm pacer Kulwant Khejroliya to the backward square-leg fence for the fourth time in the over. With the evening sun slowly setting behind the stands at the Holkar stadium, Jaffer nonchalantly raised his bat as he ushered in the New Year and marked a new dawn in Vidarbha cricket.
Mumbai man Jaffer has now won nine Ranji Trophy titles. This time his efforts will see the coveted Trophy travel to the shelves at the Vidarbha Cricket Association in Nagpur, for the very first time in the team’s six-decade long history. The nine-wicket win over a reckless Delhi side on Monday is a realisation of years of brainstorming in the corridors of VCA towards changing their image as mere pushovers in the first-class arena.
IMAGE MAKEOVER: Vidarbha players celebrate after winning the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy
Once Delhi managed to get past their first innings lead and set a target of 29 runs in the last hour of the day’s play, the first-time finalists clearly couldn’t wait for the next morning to knock off the runs. Openers R Sanjay and Faiz Fazal hurried to the middle to take guard. The excitement probably got to skipper Fazal and the second-highest run-scorer in the season missed a straight delivery from Khejroliya and was trapped in front of the stumps.
As much as the 32-year-old would have been excited about the impending win, at that moment the walk back to the pavilion would have been one of the longest in his career. The lefthander had declared ahead of the match that winning the Ranji Trophy would be the greatest moment of his career. On Monday, he repeated his words. Not even the only time he donned the India cap and scored an unbeaten 55, against Zimbabwe in Harare in June 2016, could compete with this moment.
Later, Jaffer talked about the discipline coach Chandrakant Pandit, another Mumbai strongman, had brought into this team. “I have been with this team for three seasons now. I believed they had enough talent to do something special but weren’t pushed enough. Chandru has instilled discipline in this team this year,” Jaffer said.
By Jaffer’s admission, the understanding between them helped shape the team. Pandit, sacked by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) despite guiding the team to the Ranji final at the same venue last year, scripted an absolute fairy tale. A hard taskmaster by reputation, he prepared these unheralded boys well enough to ensure this opportunity was not squandered.
The evolution of Nagpur as a major Test centre and the sheer emphasis on professionalism has all come together in this historic win. All of these qualities, it can be argued, have evaporated from Delhi cricket. The last four days demonstrated why Vidarbha remained the better team right through. Delhi’s capitulation from 189/3 to 234/8 in the afternoon session was another testimony.
Brief scores : Vidarbha 547 (Wadkar 133, Sarwate 79, Jaffer 78, Saini 5-135) and 32 for 1 (Jaffer 17*) beat Delhi 295 (Shorey 145, Himmat 66, Gurbani 6-59) and 280 (Rana 64, Shorey 62, Wakhare 4-95, Sarwate 3-30) by 9 wkts
THOSE WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR VIDARBHA
The skipper led from the front by scoring 912 runs in the season. Barring the semifinal, he contributed with the bat in almost every match. He is second in the leading run-scorers list of the season with five centuries. He ticked all the boxes correctly when it came to his tactics, be it bowling changes or field placements.
The right-arm pacer can be called the Player of the Year. He came of age in the knockout stage. He recorded five-wicket hauls in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final too. Gurbani’s career-best 7/68 knocked out mighty Karnataka in the semis. Similarly, Gurbani took Delhi out of the final with his 6/59 and hat-trick. He finished with man of the match award in the three knock-out matches in which he took 27 wickets.
He was the pillar of the Vidarbha middle-order and scored a crucial 81 against Karnataka in the semifinal. The right-hand bat started the season with 164 against Punjab.
The allrounder scored 79 as Vidarbha posted 547 in the final. He also took three wickets on Day 4. The go-to man whenever the team was in a tight situation, he scored 47 and 55 in the semis to fashion Vidarbha’s comeback against Karnataka. The left-arm spinner posted a six-wicket haul in the quarterfinal against Kerala.
Source : timesofindia