Gujarat rewarded by Parthiv’s clear thinking

Parthiv Patel slowly but surely laid the foundation for a success-deserving Gujarat team by overseeing clear sharing of responsibilities, a horses for courses approach, and adequate professionalism in the unit. Their maiden Vijay Hazare trophy win on Sunday was an affirmation of their quality as a limited-overs side.

Gujarat, under Pathiv Patel, have blossed.   -  K. Murali Kumar

That the Gujarat state cricket team no longer travel to tournaments with just survival as their goal is all too well known. They have been a formidable limited-overs side for sometime now. They reached the Vijay Hazare trophy final in 2010-11 and have won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (T20) twice in the past three years.

Yet, the statement they made on Monday following their win over Delhi to clinch their maiden Vijay Hazare title is perhaps their most forceful until now. “It is great,” said skipper Parthiv Patel. “We worked really hard as a team. We have chopped and changed a lot of things, dropped a few senior players and got in youngsters. We have given them a longer rope. And now winning for Gujarat is something very, very special.”

Almost all captains and strategists harp on teamwork, sharing of responsibility and professionalism. But no one in this tournament epitomised it as much as Gujarat. “Priyank [Panchal] got 750 runs this season in the Ranji Trophy. Rujul [Bhatt] has been a utility cricketer who would score 300 runs and take about 15 wickets.”

“The way [Jasprit] Bumrah bowled… Rush Kalaria was the most unlucky bowler. He bowled brilliantly with the new ball but he doesn’t have a wicket to show. Young Hardik Patel, who scored 20-odd against Vidarbha when we needed. Right players have clicked at the right points.”

Though the lack of India internationals has hurt Gujarat, the side have found their way out. Over the years, the likes of Romesh Powar, Venugopal Rao and R. P. Singh, with rich domestic and reasonable international experience have been procured from other states.

Horses for courses

But at the same time massaging egos is not something Parthiv and his team have done. Horses-for-courses has been the approach. For example, Singh played his first knock-out match only in the final. Hardik, who made important interventions in both the quarters and the semis didn’t figure. “It was very clear,” Parthiv said of Singh’s omission earlier. “Kalaria has been a consistent India ‘A’ player. Bhumrah is in the reckoning for the Indian team. We wanted to play only two seamers.”

“He knew that if a third seamer was needed, then he would play. It was a seamer-friendly wicket [final]. So we had to pick him. And obviously in the finals, you need an experienced player and he did a good job.”

“We tell players why he is in the team and why he isn’t. The selectors and the association have been very fair and transparent. So they take it in the right spirit.” Singh, who has been part of winning teams before while playing for Uttar Pradesh, praised Parthiv for the latter’s impact on Gujarat cricket.

“The beauty about the state team is that you build it from scratch,” said Singh. “Like how [Mohd.] Kaif did for us in U. P., Parthiv has built this team along similar lines. He has been captain for 10 years. He has picked players, hired professionals so that the team does well.

“His desire was that along with his own performance, the team also progresses. Because when you win championships, when you play finals, that’s when your boys play more. The examples are Bombay, Delhi, Karnataka… Maybe Parthiv is slowly taking Gujarat in that direction.”

“I have been a part of two IPL victories,” said Parthiv. “I have been a part of the World Cup final team too. But winning for a state is special. Because you’ve grown up here and you know the people have worked really hard behind you.”