2016-17 Ranji Trophy: Patel’s triumphant tale

Despite the limited resources available at its disposal, Gujarat executed its plans meticulously to end the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season on a memorable note.

Chirag Gandhi and Rujul Bhatt (left) celebrate after hauling Gujarat past the finish line in the final of the Ranji Trophy against Mumbai at the Holkar Stadium in Indore.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Gujarat's captain Parthiv Patel leads his team-mates on a victory lap at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. Gujarat defeated Mumbai by five wickets in the final to win its maiden Ranji Trophy.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

American author Augustine ‘Og’ Mandino II had a way of inspiring the salesmen of the 20th Century. “I will persist until I succeed. Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking,” he wrote in his bestselling book, The Greatest Salesman in the World.

Mandino based his work on 10 principles that said: I will form good habits and become their slave; I will greet this day with love in my heart; I will persist until I succeed; I am nature’s greatest miracle; I will live this day as if it is my last; Today I will be master of my emotions; I will laugh at the world (Keep perspective); Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold; I will act now; I will pray for guidance.

 

Today, there are thousands of Gujaratis, who have been highly successful in the mercantile world. Some have successfully taken up trading in the stock market while the others have even sought employment in the tech world. They all have wonderful life stories. However, Parthiv Patel was one of the few that chose and pursued the gentleman’s game with great honesty and passion. And perhaps his philosophy can be likened to the one articulated by Mandino, though in a different area of activity.

Hitting the headlines at a very young age in the new millennium, Patel faced the vicissitudes of life on the cricket field with dignity. He did not let failure turn into an obstacle; instead, he worked hard not only on his game but also mentored his State side for many years in order to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the Ranji Trophy.

On a day when the proceedings oscillated like a pendulum, Parthiv was in the vanguard of a relentless fight-back against Mumbai at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. The Gujarat skipper came up with a splendid batting display to score 143 that took his team — chasing a record fourth innings target of 312 and on a fifth day pitch — to the doorstep of victory.

Parthiv enjoyed his share of luck before he and his team swathed themselves in glory. In a sense, he made his own luck, taking risks one too many in order to repel the Mumbai attack that threatened to take control of the match at one stage. It was a colossal performance by Parthiv (90 and 143) that helped Gujarat pull off a fairytale finish. The team had meticulously executed its plans despite the limited resources available at its disposal. Parthiv held six catches, played a part in the crucial run-out of Prithvi Shaw in the first innings, and used his bowling resources with a great deal of efficiency. Despite the absence of fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, the chief architect of Gujarat’s convincing win over Jharkhand in the semifinals, and all-rounder Axar Patel, Parthiv turned Gujarat into a champion outfit.

Gujarat became the 16th team to win India’s premier domestic championship that was played on neutral venues this season.

The last time Gujarat entered the final of the Ranji Trophy was in the 1950-51 season. Despite having stalwarts such as Vinoo Mankad, Hasan Nakhuda, Polly Umrigar, Gogumal Kishenchand, Walter D’Souza, Pheroze Cambhatta, Deepak Shodhan, Vinayak Desai, Jyotindra Shodhan, Husain Reshamwala and Jasu Patel in its ranks, Gujarat lost to Holkar in the final by 189 runs.

Gujarat derived its legacy from the teams of the 1950s, and some of the other big names to follow them were Nari Contractor, Rusi Surti, Dhiraj Parsana, Uday Joshi, Ashok Joshi, Niranjan Mehta, Pankaj Zaveri, Mukund Parmar, Jaswant Bakrania and Siddharth Trivedi. Some of them played for India, but Gujarat never came close to winning the Ranji Trophy.

So what is the secret of the success of Gujarat, which has also won the Vijay Hazare Trophy (2015-16) and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (2014-15)?

Parthiv said, “Basically, we made a very good plan. Before the start of the season, we played a lot of practice matches. When we sit to pick the team, our meeting doesn’t last more than 4-5 minutes because the players pick themselves based on their performances. We played so many matches before the start of the season that we were ready to hit the ground running. A lot of credit goes to the Gujarat Cricket Association and the selectors, who provided us with all the facilities.

“A lot of people don’t know about the situation there (in Gujarat). Even when there is rain or any difficult situation, the practice facilities are always available. Besides, we have a lot of talented players. Axar (Patel) has played for India, Jassi (Bumrah) has played for India. If you look at the India under-19 team over the last 4-5 years, we have always had at least two players in the team. Even now, when we won the Under-19 Asia Cup, we had one lad in the team.

“The system for junior cricket is very good here and those who perform in districts cricket get an opportunity to play in the KSCA or Buchi Babu Trophy. By the time the Ranji Trophy comes around, no one has any doubt over whether he is in form or not. Whoever performs walks into the team, and many players of this team have been playing for around 5-6 years.”

The fact is that Parthiv Patel has taken the team forward step by step and he is the only captain who has won all the three major senior tournaments (Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy).

Explaining the ethos of the team, Parthiv said: “When you have so much of talent in your state, you end up winning. Yes, there were a few frustrating years when we didn’t qualify; we missed out on quotient or run-rate, but we knew that we had a team that could win the Ranji Trophy and we have always been talking about it amongst us. And we can only talk about it if we believe that we can win. We always knew that we could win it, and we have had the results to back it.”