Ranji Trophy: Vidarbha vs Saurashtra final is good news for Indian cricket

As the talent pool increases, the selection committee has a wider and larger selection material to choose from for the national team.

Vidharbha’s coach Chandrakant Pandit with his team. Can Pandit guide the defending champion to another Ranji success?   -  Vivek Bendre

India’s national championship for the Ranji Trophy has two teams which, not too long ago, would have struggled to qualify for the knockouts, are in the finals and it tells you how standards have levelled over the years. That is good news for Indian cricket as the talent pool increases and the selection committee has a wider and larger selection material to choose from for the national team.

Vidarbha won the trophy last year, surprising almost everybody except its coach Chandrakant Pandit. After Mumbai sacked him for reasons that are still not clear, Vidarbha jumped in and the story goes that when Pandit was being interviewed for the job he asked ‘what happens to the prize money?’ Those interviewing him were baffled and taken aback as the thought had never crossed their minds simply because Vidarbha had never been in a situation where it had got so far in the competition which could get any prize money. Pandit just wanted to know if the players would get the prize money or whether the association would share it or keep the entire amount to themselves. After all, the associations were known to have officials who would rather not give the players anything with the excuse that they were being paid to play; so if the team wins then the prize money should go to the association for so-called future talent developing. Vidarbha won and Pandit had once again proved his credentials as a coach who can work wonders.

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Pandit has always been a street-smart cricketer who wasn’t quite able to fulfill his potential at the international level as a player, but his canny awareness of the situation is best illustrated in the run-out of David Boon in the Adelaide Test match of 1985. He may not be the polished speaker with the management language that administrators get so impressed with, but make no mistake the players under him become better readers of game situations and how to react to those. Of course, it does not mean that his team wins every time but the opposite teams know they are in for a fight and they will have to be on their toes to win.

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Saurashtra, the other finalist, has come from behind in the quarterfinals and semifinals to enter the final, and with Cheteshwar Pujara showing the team the way it will be fancying its chances of a maiden triumph. The team had already been in a couple of finals so it has the experience of the big occasion. With some quality players and especially Pujara to guide the side, the trophy that eluded it in the last couple of appearances in the finals could well be its this year.

Saurashtra captain Jaydev Unadkat takes a selfie with his players after defeating Karnataka in the semifinals. Can Saurashtra clinch its maiden Ranji title?   -  Sudhakara Jain


Whatever the result, let us hope that it is not marred by umpiring decisions like in the earlier rounds or even previous years. Umpiring errors are part of the game, but when more than one error takes place and that too involving the same umpire and the same player benefiting from it then it has to be looked at more closely rather than simply accept it as a human error. It’s been known that in order to get promotion to the international panel umpires have given decisions that favour the team of the chairman of the umpires committee. In the past umpires have been known to be instructed not to make a team of an opposition group administrator win and so blatantly wrong decisions have been given to that effect.

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The appointment of the best umpires is also a key factor. After all, this is the final of the national championship and so the best should officiate. Having said that, it’s also important that no umpire will be from the state or city of the two finalists. In fact, even for the quarterfinals and semifinals no umpire belonging to any of those teams should officiate to avoid a conflict of interest. With the BCCI organising thousands of games it’s not always possible to ensure that this will happen but no effort must be spared to do so.

It is really good to see two non-metro teams participating in the finals and let’s hope that it’s a thrilling end and the better team wins the coveted Ranji Trophy.

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