Faiz Fazal: ‘I want to play Test cricket for India’

Absence of Vidarbha players at the international level and the IPL is a disappointment, says two-time Ranji winning captain Faiz Fazal.

Faiz Fazal led Vidarbha to its second Ranji Trophy title in Nagpur on Thursday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Vidarbha’s second Ranji Trophy title win, this time at home, saw a host of supporters throng the VCA ground even on a week day. There were banners for skipper Faiz Fazal; a rare instance in a domestic game.

The international cricket stadium had turned into a ‘feel good’ park with families of the players exchanging pleasantries. Around 3 pm, as the crew started dispersing, Fazal took a minute to sink in the special moment. He looked at the stands, paused for a bit, and said, “we had to win it here”.

Sportstar caught up with him for a free-wheeling chat on the second consecutive Ranji title win and the cricket culture that made Vidarbha into a strong force.

Excerpts...

Vidarbha seems to have developed quite a fan base, there were banners for you. Tell us a bit on the culture within the state that helped you guys dream…

Those people are my neighbours, most of them were from my colony [in Nagpur]. The support group is massive. It was a big game. People don’t realise how important Ranji Trophy is. This is what makes Indian cricketers. As a player, you develop when you start putting in years of effort to domestic cricket. For instance, look at players like Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, these people have matured here before representing India.

But it is also about being consistent throughout the season...

Of course. But there is also another way of looking at it. I am not trying to speak negative but then, at times, a player — if after doing well in Ranji — doesn’t perform at the higher level, he may get worried thinking his career is over. That should not be the case. This game and tournament is very important. All senior cricketers who have a sound knowledge on this will agree. Culture-wise, it is healthy and these days, we only think of winning matches. When you focus on victories, it will automatically bring out the best individual performance. To make the team win, even if it requires more than 100 per cent, players should be ready to dive in.

Vidarbha players and coaching staff pose for the cameras with their fans in the background, after winning a second straight Ranji Trophy title. Faiz Fazal and co. had a small number of fans turn up at the venue on all days of the final.   -  VIVEK BENDRE

 

You have played only one ODI for India [against Zimbabwe in 2016]. You even scored a fifty but then, you didn’t get a call-up after that. Do you still have India dreams at 33?

I do. It is not easy to get into the Indian team. To perform in Ranji consistently is also very difficult. Cricketers who have been playing international for long will agree on that. The wickets and conditions are different. There is a lot of travel. You tell me, who plays 11 Test matches in a row? We have been through that grind and all were high pressure games.

How do you keep yourself inspired?

By god’s grace, I have been performing [752 runs in 2018-19 and 912 runs in 2017-18] consistently. It has improved in these years. I definitely want to play for India. That aim is still intact. I want to play Test cricket for India. Now it all depends on the selectors. We won the Ranji last year as well, but only one player [Rajneesh Gurbani] has played India A.

What do you think could be the reason behind the ignorance?

I really don’t know what’s the reason. Many of our players are ready for India, I feel, including me. It is essential to self-promote these days. You can’t ignore performances for two years. I am hopeful that this year there will be more cricketers from Vidarbha to go to the higher level. This is otherwise a disappointment for us. There is no point if you don’t get rewards for your game. We don’t want monetary rewards. That is secondary in sports.

Even in the IPL, there are no Vidarbha players. How do you motivate your boys as there is nothing to look forward to in that case?

Yes, there is nobody in the IPL too. I don’t know why. Our players are very mature. They all know how to go about it. Preparation is very important, hard work is important. I hope in future something good happens.

How much of a boost has been Umesh Yadav’s presence?

He is a big asset. His presence adds stability to the bowling. He is a big brother to the fast bowling unit. He is such a humble guy. He has played so much international cricket but he is very down to earth. He is a great human being. There are very few cricketers who are as humble as him.

What’s the plan from here?

Right now, we are looking forward to the Irani Trophy. It is an important game for us. We are playing at home only. I am sure it will be equally tough.

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