Ranji Trophy: Dream comes true for Saurashtra

As Saurashtra won its first Ranji Trophy title, beating Bengal, the former players and administrators walked down memory lane.

Saurashtra cricketers celebrate after winning the Ranji Trophy in Rajkot on Friday.   -  Vijay Soneji

Carrying on a long legacy from the time of the British rule, the friendly and hospitable Saurashtrians finally experienced a dream come true when Jaydev Unadkat lifted the maiden Ranji Trophy by beating Bengal at home.

After the erstwhile Nawanagar (the previous version of Saurashtra) won the Ranji Trophy – which was named after the legendary Ranjitsinhji of Jamnagar – way back in 1936-37 (incidentally beating Bengal), cricket administration went through a lot of changes before the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) came into being in the 1950s.

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Over the years, the south-western region of Gujarat has produced several renowned cricketers – including Duleepsinhji, L. Amarsinh, L. Ramji, Vinoo Mankad, Salim Durrani, Dhiraj Parsana, Karsan Ghavri, Ravindra Jadeja, Unadkat and Cheteshwar Pujara – and takes pride in its rich cricketing history.

Pujara, who was part of the winning squad, said, “This victory means a lot to me. For the entire team and the region, this is special. It means a lot to my father, who has played the Ranji Trophy. For generations to follow, it will give them belief,” said Pujara.

For former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Niranjan Shah – who has been associated with SCA administration for nearly five decades, and his son Jaydev, the Ranji Trophy triumph was a lifetime achievement.

“Earlier, our players used to migrate. During Jaydev’s captaincy (for 12 years), he held back them to build a team. Our effort to groom talented under-19 players for Ranji Trophy also helped,” said Niranjan.

Jaydev, the current SCA president, elaborated how he built the team. “Once, we were No. 28 among 30 teams. Then we became the Plate division champion, came to Elite, qualified for knockouts and ultimately became a Ranji champion.

“I ensured that players were picked purely based on performance and showed faith in them. That’s how we got an experienced side. I kept some senior players in the leadership group before deciding to hand over the captaincy to Unadkat. The transition was smooth.

“Every small thing was taken care of. Getting such top-class infrastructure (at the SCA) also helped,” said Jaydev.

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Former captain and coach Sitanshu Kotaka, who spent 27 years with the side, said, “A good unit, which was developed over the years, has made this possible. It’s a proud moment for all of us,” said Kotak.

Coach Karsan Ghavri said, “Except Unadkat and Pujara, it is a team of normal Ranji Trophy players. For five-six of them, it was like a religion.”

Sujitkumar Bose, a Rajkot-based former journalist and a keen follower of Saurashtra cricket, said it was a moment to cherish. “The SCA started from almost nothing. Saurashtra becoming the Ranji champion is an emotional moment for the region,” said Bose.

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