Ranji Trophy final: Skipper Fazal unperturbed by 'underdog' tag

“I don’t know really… We have won six-seven outright games, so even then if we are called underdogs, we don’t mind,” Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal.

Vidarbha skipper Faiz Fazal during the practice session on the eve of the Ranji Trophy final against Delhi at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore.   -  R.V. Moorthy

The last few days have been quite an emotional rollercoaster for Faiz Fazal. In his almost 14-year cricketing career, this is for the first time he will be leading a side in the final of the Ranji Trophy, beginning at the Holkar Stadium on Friday.

And the Vidarbha skipper wants to make it a memorable outing — both for the team and for himself. Taking on a rather superior Delhi side, the young guns of Vidarbha will be put to test, but then, the captain is not bothered about the ‘underdog’ tag. “I don’t know really… We have won six-seven outright games, so even then if we are called underdogs, we don’t mind,”  he says.

For the Vidarbha team, tags don’t matter because "Ultimately, winning the game is most important".

And it is perhaps this confidence that has helped Vidarbha come a long way this season.

When the tournament began a couple of months ago, not many thought that this relatively young side — which has a few old warhorses — will reach this far. But the side proved its critics wrong by pulling off outright victories against Punjab and Bengal — that too in its away games.

“We have been able to play as a unit. The way the team played against Karnataka in the semifinal showed our character,” Fazal says, making it clear that the team clicked at Eden Gardens because it knew that it was its game to lose. “Even when Karnataka needed nine runs, and we needed two wickets — we knew this can’t go wrong,” he says.

This team is more disciplined and under the guidance of coach Chandrakant Pandit, it has been able to raise the bar. “This time, we are more confident. The preparations have been good before the start of the Ranji Trophy, and the match simulations before the season has also helped us.”

While he knows that the absence of experienced seamer Umesh Yadav will be a big blow for his side, Fazal believes that a good start will be the key. “We always want to win the game outright, and not be happy with first innings lead. In the quarterfinals against Kerala, we could have batted the whole day, like Bengal did, but we chose not to,” Fazal says.

The decision to declare the innings had helped his side win the game outright, and Fazal feels, that boosted the team’s morale in the semifinals. And now, as the side chases history, Fazal too has a wish—to have a bite of success. “I want to have the feel of the trophy in my hands. I want to have that bite of success,” he says, before heading towards the dressing room to chalk out the final strategy.

With a hand on the trophy, Vidarbha would like to believe that fairy tales do happen in reality!