Can Gujarat make it two on the bounce?

For the 2017-18 season, Gujarat has signed leg-spinner Piyush Chawla as it felt that in the absence of Axar Patel, the team would lack a quality spinner.

Springing a surprise... Gujarat players celebrate with the trophy after defeating Mumbai in the final of the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy.   -  PTI

Gujarat realised its dream of winning the prestigious Ranji Trophy with an emphatic victory against the 41- time champion, Mumbai, in the final of the 2016-17 season in Indore in January this year. Fittingly, its captain Parthiv Patel led from the front and showed his leadership qualities to outwit Mumbai at the Holkar Cricket Stadium.

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Mumbai captain Aditya Tare and his team-mates may have been justified in thinking that they had a chance to change the course of the match in the fourth innings, but Patel did not yield, as he scored a terrific 143 and showed the way for his side. Gujarat, incidentally, was one of the few teams that complained when asked to play on neutral venues.

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Gujarat was in a spot at 89 for 3 after Mumbai had set a stiff target of 313 runs. But the gifted and stylish right-hander Manpreet Juneja defended and stroked the ball well, and more importantly gave his captain the confidence that he is ready for the battle. Juneja and Patel added 116 runs for the fourth wicket that eventually played a big part in Gujarat’s fourth innings chase.

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Having run up big scores in the league stage and captured wickets mainly through the wonderful work of its seam attack (Jasprit Bumrah, Rudra Pratap Singh and Rush Kalaria), Gujarat believed that no force can stop it, especially after Bumrah had run through a confident Jharkhand in Nagpur in the semifinals.

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Though Bumrah, who was called for India duty, and left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who was injured, did not play in the final, medium-pacer Chintan Gaja (6-121) rose to the occasion for Gujarat with a lion-hearted performance.

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While Gujarat’s win may have surprised many, Patel was of the view that the decision to continue with the players who have had good exposure in the past was the key. With the openers, Priyank Panchal and Samit Gohel, aggregating 1310 and 914 runs respectively, and Patel (763), Juneja (759) and Bhargav Merai (479) too joining in, Gujarat’s batting looked top class.

The team’s major wicket-takers were Bumrah (24), Kalaria (28), Hardik Patel (22) and Rudra Pratap Singh (18).

For the 2017-18 season, Gujarat has signed leg-spinner Piyush Chawla as it felt that in the absence of Axar Patel, the team would lack a quality spinner.

Last season: Champion

Titles: 1