Faiz Fazal: 'I'm a big fan of Pujara'

Ahead of the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 final against Saurashtra, Vidarbha skipper Fazal feels spending more time at the ground in the last two years has turned the tide for his side.

In fine form: Faiz Fazal has scored 726 runs at an average of 55.84 for Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy this season.   -  R. V. Moorthy (File Photo)

Back in the mid-2000, when Vidarbha hadn’t turned into a solid force in domestic cricket, Faiz Fazal would not get enough opportunities to play Duleep Trophy; considered tougher than Ranji Trophy and known as the gateway to the national team. At times, he would just carry drinks.

The hardships of the past have now culminated into a golden present. In the last 12 months, Fazal has a Ranji title, an Irani Trophy and a Duleep title in his cabinet. On Sunday at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur, the 33-year-old will step into his second consecutive Ranji final.

Ahead of the big day against Jaydev Unadkat’s Saurashtra, Vidarbha skipper Fazal credits the culture that seeped into the side through the VCA cricket academy and players over the years that culminated with the maiden Ranji title in 2017-18.

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“The provisions were really good to make a team. We had started spending more time at the ground. It led to a culture. The hunger among players increased and people wanted to play for India,” he told Sportstar on Friday.

“Like India is a developing country, Vidarbha has been a developing state for many years.”

Among India and India A players in his side, there are also street-smart cricketers like Akshay Wadkar who have come up from local leagues such as the MN Dorairajan tournament and the Guzder League. “It is great that our local cricketers are being rewarded.”  

Fazal feels the current health of Vidarbha cricket is the result of multiple cricketing brains in operation. “I would like to thank all the cricketers and the coaches who have been associated with us. Everybody shared their experiences and it built on slowly. The support of the association has been immense. I can never put it to words. There has been no dearth of facilities. Practice wickets or centre wickets, we had everything at our disposal for training,” said Fazal, who has been a run machine at the top of the order.

Vidarbha won its maiden Ranji Trophy title in the 2017/18 season. Faiz Fazal, the team captain, attributed the maiden title win to hard work and the exploits of his team's bowlers.   -  THE HINDU


The southpaw has collected 726 runs [and counting] – three centuries and two fifties – at an average of 55.84 in this season.  Last year, Fazal had scored 912 runs – five centuries and a fifty – at an average of 70.15; right behind Mayank Agarwal who topped the table with 1,160 runs. He has, however, only made one appearance for India, in an ODI against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2016. 

Thoughts on final

Fazal accepts being the defending champion is an advantage. He relishes the “healthy pressure". 

“If you have won once, it raises expectations. But people only start expecting when you do well. So it is a good feeling. We are enjoying this pressure.”

On the Cheteshwar Pujara threat, he said, “Pujara is an established cricketer, a legend for the country, and he scored so many runs in the recent tour of Australia. All our players will learn a lot from him. I am a big fan of Pujara. I always like Test cricketers who are consistent yet so down to earth."

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The Yadav factor

Vidarbha seems to be satisfied playing the final against a tough opponent like Saurashtra. But it has the firepower in its ranks to match the skill-sets; just place a Wasim Jaffer and Umesh Yadav in the scheme of things.  Speedster Yadav has been on a rampage ever since his return to Vidarbha. He picked up 21 wickets in four innings; single-handedly destroyed Kerala in the semifinal. 

“I am really happy he got three fifers in two games. Its a great achievement, he will make a difference. He has great energy and is a great athlete. He is bringing in lots of positivity. Most of our bowlers are young and it is a blessing to have Umesh by their side. He is the big brother to the bowling unit,” said Fazal.

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