Ranji Trophy 2018-19: We are playing some of the best cricket at the moment, says Rishi Dhawan

The seamer, who scripted the dramatic turnaround for his side on Day Four, says the wicket of Vijay Shankar was the turning point.

Rishi Dhawan celebrates the fall of a Tamil Nadu wicket in Dharamsala on Tuesday.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Himachal, not traditionally considered a heavyweight in the Ranji Trophy, has now strung three victories in a row. The latest – a nine-wicket defeat of Tamil Nadu – follows two innings wins, against Andhra and Punjab.

It required an all-round effort to stun Tamil Nadu. Seamer Rishi Dhawan played a critical role on the final day – alongside Arpit Guleria – to scythe through the bottom half of the opposition line-up. For also scoring a free-flowing 75 in the first innings, he was adjudged the Player of the Match.

However, there were other major contributors. Ankit Kalsi scored a patient yet entertaining century, opener Raghav Dhawan scored a vigilant 71in testing circumstances, and Pankaj Jaswal turned in a spell of 3 for 45 on Day One.

“It was a team effort,” Rishi told Sportstar after the contest. “There are different heroes in every match. We are playing some of the best cricket at the moment,” he said.

Reflecting on the remarkable turnaround between lunch and tea, on Day Four, he said, “Vijay Shankar’s wicket was the turning point. He was batting well, and he got out just before we took the new ball. If he had been around, they would have scored 30-40 more runs, and then it would have been difficult for us.”

As it turned out, Tamil Nadu lost six wickets for 25 runs to provide the home team a look-in. Rishi took three of those wickets, including the significant one of captain B. Indrajith, who had constructed a dour, assured century and seemed set to bat through the day. “I was looking to bowl just short of a good length, so the ball could move and trouble the batsmen,” he said.

His effort was augmented by Arpit Guleria, who also claimed a three-wicket haul. Commenting on his hardworking counterpart, Rishi said, “Arpit did well in the U-23 age-group cricket. It’s good to see him bowling well, in his debut year.”

In the first half of the day, the team was “on the back-foot,” admitted Rishi. “We were trying our best in the morning but Vijay Shankar hit a few boundaries and that put us on the back-foot. We were trying to contain them (Tamil Nadu batsmen) as well as take wickets,” he said.

Vikram Rathour is part of a formidable project of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association – of establishing 70 regional coaching centres to improve the State’s grassroots cricket.   -  Vijay Lokapally

 

Vikram Rathour, the head coach, had been keenly watching the contest unfold from the sidelines. Commenting on his team’s purple patch, he said, “We have been getting the team combination right. We have had a good run despite two of our best players – Prashant Chopra and Nikhil Gangta – not having kicked in yet. Kalsi has been phenomenal, and Raghav showed lots of patience.”

He added, “The key, in bowler-friendly conditions, is to put runs on the board. We have been doing that.”

For success to be a much longer-term characteristic of his side, Rathour is part of a formidable project of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association – of establishing 70 regional coaching centres to improve the State’s grassroots cricket. It is to enable, he says, aspiring cricketers from remote, hilly parts to have access to good facilities without having to relocate to the hub.

He oversees a coaching academy at the HPCA Stadium, where, he says, “the practice facilities are as good as any.”

The present phase of the senior side may or may not be a temporary crest of the wave. But the ambition surely exists to make Himachal permanently play ‘as good as any.’