Ranji Trophy: A dream run for Kerala

Kerala bettered its performance in this season of Ranji Trophy by progressing to the quarterfinal stage.

Sanju Samson (left) and Vishnu Vinod after clinching a win for Kerala against Himachal Pradesh.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

For someone whose team had just been thrashed by 10 wickets inside three days, Dav Whatmore had a smile on his face on that cold New Year's Day evening at Mohali.

From being one of the top contenders for the quarterfinal berths of the Ranji Trophy, they had been reduced to one of the ten teams that stood an outside chance to qualify – provided they won their last match.

Yet, Whatmore sounded cheerful. And hopeful.

But, he was realistic, too. He conceded the team was let down by its batsmen, even as the bowlers had performed admirably right through the season

The World-Cup winning coach said: “But we were still alive in the competition, with that match to go against Himachal.”

Read: Baby banks on 'brave cricket' against Gujarat

And they continue to be alive -- even after that match against Himachal, which finished at Nadaun on Thursday. That is something they could be mighty proud of.

It is tough to go into your last match, knowing that nothing less than a victory would do. It is tougher when you are forced to take the field without your most valuable player, the man who is both your top run-getter and leading wicket-taker. And it is even tougher to chase close to 300 in the fourth innings, on the final day.

But, this bunch of young men, led admirably by Sachin Baby, dared to dream. They knew that if they could create history a year ago – by becoming the first ever Kerala team to reach the knock-out stage – they could do it again.

They did it in some style, too. They won four matches in the toughest Groups (A and B), more than any of their 17 rivals. Two of those wins came away.

“That is important – last year we could win only game away -- and it shows the team is moving along the right direction,” Whatmore told Sportstar over the phone. “The win against Himachal was special. It would remain one of my memorable days of my coaching career.”

As it would be for the entire team as they get ready for the quarterfinal clash on January 15 against Gujarat.

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