Sachin Baby led Kerala from the front in Rajkot.

He is justifiably proud of the way his men fought all the way, though they narrowly failed to clinch a place in the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy, having finished runner-up to Madhya Pradesh on run quotient.

He had made a superb hundred in that match, but could not quite finish it off. If he could have bat for a few more overs, he would have been able to help Kerala get past Madhya Pradesh on run quotient.

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“I was very disappointed when I got out – the ball from the left-arm spinner (Kumar Kartikeya) deviated more than I expected after pitching into the rough – but I would say it has been one of my best knocks,” Sachin told Sportstar on Tuesday.

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“And this has been one of the best Kerala teams I have been part of since I made my Ranji debut in 2009.”

Baby said a lot of work had gone into making the team’s fine performance, in which it won two matches including one against Gujarat chasing down a stiff target at six-an-over, with he himself scoring a priceless 62.

“I believe in discipline, and not just in batting and discipline and off the field as well,” he said. “We have been able to get that in this team. I have often thought that was what prevented the Kerala side from realising its full potential.”

There certainly is a lot of potential in this young side. “The one big difference in the team this year is that we have been able to blood more youngsters than we ever did before,” he said. “It was great to see all of them – Edhen Apple Tom, Rohan Kunnummal and Vathsal Govind – perform well.”

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He is not surprised by the phenomenal run of Rohan; the opener made three hundreds in as many innings and 75 in the fourth. “Rohan has a hunger for runs and that’s why he became our leading batter in all the three formats for us this season,” he said. “As for Vathsal, I always knew he had the technique for red-ball cricket. Though he scored a hundred (in the first match), I was expecting even more from him. I have also high hopes about Varun Nayanar, who is also a solid batter like Vathsal.”

He also said teenage seamer Edhen augurs well for the future of Kerala. “Coach Tinu Yohannan had faith in him after seeing bowl at the nets,” he said. “He troubled the batters and we felt he could make the other team’s batters as well. I am also happy that I backed opener P. Rahul, though he had fared poorly in the practice matches. Now we have a dependable opening pair in Rahul and Rohan.”