Fazal: Vidarbha ready to do anything for maiden Ranji title

While Vidarbha is gearing up to script a fairytale finish to the Ranji Trophy season, its skipper Faiz Fazal talks to Sportstar about his team's march to its first-ever final.

Faiz Fazal

Faiz Fazal has led the side with the bat in the Ranji Trophy 2017-18 season with 843 runs in eight matches.   -  PTI

Not many expected Vidrabha to go too far when the Ranji Trophy got underway in October. But in the game of glorious uncertainties, things change thick and fast. In just two months time, Vidarbha has scripted a fairytale this season, reaching the final of the Ranji Trophy.

Much before the final outing against Delhi begins at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, Vidarbha skipper, Faiz Fazal, is buoying with confidence.

In a chat with Sportstar on Saturday morning, Fazal makes it clear that his boys would go all out to grab the coveted title that has eluded them so far.

Excerpts…

It has been a fairytale season for Vidarbha. Ahead of the team’s first-ever Ranji Trophy final, how do you see the next challenge?

As a team, we have a strong belief of winning the trophy. We want to win Ranji Trophy by all means. The preparation has been good, there is enough seriousness in the side and the unit is disciplined. We are also ready to sacrifice everything to win the coveted title for the first time — that’s the aim of the whole team. But then, we are treating the final as any other game. In the final, the team which holds its horses will have the last laugh and we hope to do that. We will treat this as another hurdle which we need to cross.

I also believe that this is not the end; we are already planning for the Irani Cup as well. So, I think, there are two important games coming our way.

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Don’t you think it’s a bit too much to think about Irani Cup when you have not even cleared the final hurdle in Ranji Trophy?

Absolutely not… If we win the Ranji Trophy, then the entire team gets to play the Irani Cup, and that is something I want. Otherwise what happens is, only a few players get opportunities (for Rest of India), but I don’t want that. Our aim is to give chance to the whole team to play the Irani Cup.

Now that you are dreaming of playing the Irani Cup, let’s rewind that morning at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. In the semifinal clash, Karnataka required five runs to win the game. Being the captain, did you really — at that point of time — believe that Vidrabha would make it to the final?

I never went on the negative. I don’t know why but even when Karnataka needed nine runs and we required two wickets, I was thinking that we can’t lose from here. This is our game and we can’t let it go. That belief was always there. I knew it was just the matter of two good balls and Karnataka had massive pressure. I was really thinking positive. I even told Rajneesh Gurbani and Umesh Yadav not to look at the scoreboard. That would have been the biggest distraction. So, I remember telling Rajneesh only to think about his bowling and which areas to bowl at. Deep inside, I was praying. But I always had the belief of winning the game.

In a season of success, what do you think are the things that have gone your way?

The roles (of each and every player) are very clear this time. Everyone knows what he has to do for the team. To maximum extent, the guys are playing their parts well. They are trying to improve their performances every time.

Of course, with Chandu Sir (coach Chandrakant Pandit) in the side, he has tried to polish the basics. Most of the times we tend to forget to get the basics right and that’s what matters. The bonding of the team is excellent — we are staying together, having meals together, participating in team exercises — that all matters to get the bonding right. We are trying to tick all the boxes.

Are you trying to say that Pandit has been able to imbibe Mumbai cricket’s much talked-about Khadoos culture in the Vidarbha dressing room?

Yes. He belongs to that Mumbai culture and he tries to imbibe that kind of mentality in the team. He has taught us how to make winning a habit. In the quarterfinal match against Kerala, we could have kept batting on the fifth day — like Bengal did against Gujarat in the other quarters.

We already had the first innings lead and we were almost through, so we could have batted the whole day. But then, Chandu sir told us that we would put Kerala in to bat and try and win this game. The challenge was whether we could achieve it in 50 overs?

That was a test of our bowlers and their characters. If you win a game, your morale boosts up. That gives you the confidence and also puts the opponent under pressure. That’s what we did and we won it. That helped. Chandu sir wants that winning habit in our culture.

But then, what are your plans of tackling the Delhi team, which has also displayed firebrand cricket?

They are a great side and they have played really well throughout the season. They have got a few amazing cricketers in their side. But right now, I feel that it will be more of a ‘mental game’ in the final. The players who hold the nerves will sail through. We are prepared. We have to be grounded as well. Coming into the final, everyone is talking about Vidarbha.

We need to ensure that we are not overconfident; neither should we be under pressure. We should not carry any baggage. We are prepared technically and mentally as well.

This season, Vidrabha has relied heavily on its young pacer Rajneesh Gurbani. In the semifinal, he was ably supported by the experienced Umesh Yadav. Now with Umesh — who will be touring to South Africa with Team India — unavailable for the final, don’t you think all the pressure will mount on Gurbani?

Umesh not being in the side will be a big loss for us. But whoever replaces him will be pumped up. All of us have carried out equal amount of training, and each of the bowlers have spent quite an amount of time at the nets.

We are a squad of 17, so they all know what the plans are. They have done the same thing at the nets and interestingly, we have done quite a bit of match simulation before the tournament. All the bowlers got an opportunity. I know there will be a bit of pressure on the seamer who comes in now, but it does not matter. We have to follow the simple plans, and I am sure, whoever plays will be able to adjust to it.