Ranji Trophy Final: Clash of the dream-chasers

The iconic Holkar Stadium in Indore will play host where, Vidarbha will be chasing history in its first-ever Ranji Trophy final and the opponent, Delhi trying to end a 10-year long jinx.

Delhi bowler Manan Sharma preapres to bowl as bowling coach Manoj Prabhakar looks on at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore on Thursday.   -  R.V. Moorthy

The iconic Holkar Stadium was witness to Gujarat’s meteoric rise in the final of the Ranji Trophy last season, when it outclassed heavyweight Mumbai to clinch the coveted title for the first time.

That was last year.

And now, the same venue is host to yet one more Ranji Trophy summit clash where another young side, Vidarbha, will be chasing history. While this would be the first-ever Ranji Trophy final for the Faiz Fazal-led side, for the opponent, Delhi, too, this is a chance to end a 10-year long jinx.

Read: Key players to watch out for

Despite having some of the big names in the side, Delhi has not been able to make it to the final stage in the last few years, and for that, it remains calm and composed ahead of the historic final.

That’s strikingly opposite to Vidarbha’s beliefs.

Unlike Delhi, Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal has already set his eyes on the Irani Cup —making it more or less evident that his side would have the last laugh. Having witnessed a dream season so far, the side is brimming with confidence and most of the players believe that they have the power to thump a rather superior opponent.

 

But then, Delhi has decided to take it easy.

Coming in with vast experience and a history of winning seven titles in the past, Delhi — captained by the young Rishabh Pant — is aware that in such finals, it is important to keep cool.

And to ensure that there is no slip-up, the team is relying largely on its seasoned campaigner Gautam Gambhir — who interestingly, was the skipper of the Delhi side, when it won the title for the last time in 2007-08. In that final, Delhi had bounced back into the game after conceding a first-innings lead to Uttar Pradesh.

Also read: Delhi’s road to title clash

                  Vidarbha's road to summit clash

That’s a story Gambhir would be having in store to inspire the young side. This season, Gambhir has been the highest run-getter for the team, picking up 632 runs in 10 innings. That includes three centuries and two half centuries. Not just him, the youngsters like Kunal Chandela and Himmat Singh have proven their worth in the side, along with a slightly experienced Nitish Rana and captain Pant.

Though Pant hasn’t really had a good outing, but even Vidarbha knows, it would not be too much for the young gun to script a turnaround.

Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal (left) with Delhi captain Rishabh Pant on the eve of the Ranji Trophy final.

 

If Delhi’s batting looked well-oiled, the bowling department, too, has had a dream outing. With pacer Navdeep Saini scalping 29 wickets so far, and left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra grabbing 32, Delhi will largely depend on Saini. After all, it was his spell that helped Delhi thump Bengal in the semifinal last week.

Also read: Gambhir misses practice but to play final

Like Delhi, Vidarbha too has ticked all the boxes this season. Under the watchful eyes of its coach Chandrakant Pandit, the side has been able to raise the bar. That, largely, has happened because it could respond to the demands of the situation. Otherwise, who would have thought that a side, with not many big names, will stun Karnataka in the semifinal and before that would thump Punjab and Bengal in their home!

 

If Faiz Fazal — who has amassed 843 runs — has led from the front, the batting department has fared well with Sanjay Ramaswamy and Ganesh Satish chipping in regularly. Then there is Wasim Jaffer. At 39, the erstwhile India opener has picked up 500 runs in the season, bolstering the batting line-up.

Also read: It is good to have a wicketkeeper captain, says Pant

Vidarbha's bowling department too has responded well, with young Rajneesh Gurbani spearheading the attack. With 31 wickets in his kitty, young Gurbani took the cricketing world by surprise — scalping 12 wickets against Karnataka. But this time around, the side will be without the services of Umesh Yadav — who is with the Indian team in South Africa. In Umesh’s absence, it would be interesting to see whether the team picks Aditya Thakre, who is a stand-by for India’s U-19 World Cup squad, or fields Lalit Yadav.

Also read: What has the DDCA done to improve the game?, asks Chopra

The spinning department, however, will be taken care of by offie Akshay Wakhare and Aditya Sarvate.

With the wicket likely to assist the batsmen, a mouth-watering clash is certainly in the offing.