By Ananya Bhardwaj
Indian cricket sees the formation of brilliant National level players emerge from the dusty pitches of the matches in the Ranji Trophy. It is a first-class championship between regional cricket associations sending teams to represent them. The Ranji Trophy kicked off on 6th October 2017 this year, and Gujarat was the defending champion. It was slated that Delhi and the defending champions would face-off against each other, but a surprise entrant topping the charts changed the course of this tournament and has created history.
History in Ranji so far
Traditionally perceived as underdogs, right up till their streak this season, Vidarbha were a team nobody placed their bets on. It was a dream till 3-4 years ago for fans to see Vidarbha in the knockouts, but a place in the final tally or even qualifying was but a distant dream—one that was mocked often by others. Vidarbha got woefully close to a victory over Tamil Nadu in 2014-15 after having qualified for the quarterfinals. However, these were cut short by the innings of players like Vijay Shankar, Murali Vijay, and Dinesh Karthik; players who had given stellar performances in the national team as well. These players won the match for Tamil Nadu, and Vidarbha had to settle for elimination from that season. In the next year, the team faced Saurashtra and lost in the quarters by an innings. The next year, they failed to qualify at all.
Rise from the ashes
It is true that Vidarbha has not contributed to providing any major players in the Test format to the national team. The last cause of such celebration was the induction of Umesh Yadav in the national squad. India always had the problem of finding a bowler who would shake off the opposition with express pace. When Faiz Fazal, the stalwart of Vidarbha’s batting, was lauded for his brilliant consistent performances with an invite to the Indian ODI team, fans didn’t care if the opposition was even Zimbabwe. All they pinned their eyes on was the local boy in blue colours who had worked hard. However, the measures necessary to revive Vidarbha cricket had been formulated and were being implemented for a while now. The player transfer policy was a godsend because it meant the guidance of veterans like Ambati Rayudu, Wasim Jaffer, etc. Vidarbha’s current coach, Ashok Upadhyay, has been a key player in the stellar run by the team this year.
Run in Ranji this season
Thus, it did not come as a surprise to many to see Vidarbha performing decently in the start, but what hit everyone out of the blue was the grit and consistency with which they have performed from their very first match. It was obvious that they were here to go the distance. The beautiful thing about Vidarbha’s performance this year is that their success is not attributed to a single player or a few key members, but is a collective team effort. In a refreshing perspective, the youngsters in the team (like Jitesh Sharma, Apoorv Wankhede, Akshay Karnewar, Sanjay Ramaswamy) were entrusted with responsibilities, and they lived up to the same.
Their arrival on the scene has not been shy or complacent. Having conceded only one lead in the league stages, they announced their victories proudly, warning their future opponents to not underestimate them as perceived underdogs. Twice they won by an innings margin, once by 10 wickets against the strong Bengal side and then a huge victory in the semifinals over Karnataka. Vidarbha has already improved its own record of advancing to the semifinals for the first time. In the finals at Indore, they took one step closer towards the dream by defeating Delhi. They created reality with their perseverance, never-say-die attitude, determination, and discipline.
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