Ranji Trophy: Meet Chirag Jani, the centurion at No. 7

Saurashtra all-rounder Chirag Jani is redefining lower-order batsmanship in Ranji Trophy 2019-20. He scored his second ton in the quarterfinal.

Saurashtra's Chirag Jani celebrates his century against Andhra on the second day of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at Ongole on Friday.

Saurashtra's Chirag Jani celebrates his century against Andhra on the second day of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at Ongole on Friday.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

At six feet three inches, Chirag Jani stands out in a crowd. He looks like a sprinter whose bat is always on track when on field. But the giant figure is actually a shy and soft-spoken personality. He doesn’t go overboard with celebrations and keeps away from on-field banters, quietly doing his job.

On Friday, in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Andhra, the right-hander scored his second ton of the season batting lower down the order. Coming at No. 8, he was unbeaten on 124 against Tamil Nadu and today, the 30-year-old finished on 121 at No. 7.

There are very few cricketers who have struck hundreds at No. 7. M.S. Dhoni is on top of the heap. Abdul Razzak, Jos Buttler, James Faulkner and Mohammad Kaif fall within the same bracket too. The only difference is the international jersey that never came Jani’s way. “I never think that far. I just want to prove my talent by scoring runs and taking wickets. I am habituated batting with the tail and I know how to proceed with the game and get a big total,” Jani told Sportstar.

“In white ball, I bat slightly up and that’s a good opportunity but setting up a game for the lower order is a good challenge. And I have the idea how to go about it since I have been playing Ranji for many years,” he added.

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Jani made his first-class debut in 2012. It’s the same year when he warmed the Kolkata Knight Riders bench in the IPL. Despite 95 wickets and 3,000+ runs – first-class and List A combined – the seam-bowling all-rounder couldn’t break into the top flight. The IPL offer still eludes.

During the off-season, he participates in district matches in Saurashtra to maintain the fire in the belly. “Many of my team-mates play there, and when we come together for the season it helps in team bonding.” No wonder his 157-run stand with Prerak Mankad looked effortless today. “Andhra was one bowler short, so we wanted to just stay on the wicket. We both played on merit since we both are batsmen.”

Jani is keen to return to the IPL if an offer comes by. He understands that years down the line, self-motivation can be tough if the hard work isn't recognised. “I never got a chance after 2012 though I had good performances with the white ball in domestic cricket. If I get a chance, I will definitely play the IPL as an all-rounder,” he said.

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