Domestic stalwart Vineet Saxena announces retirement

Vineet Saxena played a key role in Rajasthan’s consecutive Ranji Trophy titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

File photo of Vineet Saxena playing a shot during a Ranji Trophy game between Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.   -  K. Pichumani

Vineet Saxena, a domestic stalwart who starred in Rajasthan’s consecutive Ranji Trophy titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, has formally announced his retirement. Saxena, the opener who is the most capped and highest run-getter for Rajasthan in Ranji Trophy, was renowned for his gritty batting at the top. The pinnacle of his two decade-long first-class career was his Man of the Match-winning 257 against Tamil Nadu in the final of the 2011-12 edition.

Saxena appeared for Ranji Trophy debutants Uttarakhand in the 2018-19 edition and captained the team in the absence of Rajat Bhatia in the quarterfinal against eventual champion Vidarbha. That match in Nagpur in January 2019 turned out to be his last outing.

“Obviously at the start of this season, I was thinking of retiring on the field at the end of it. But just before the start, Uttarakhand association had a new dispensation and they brought in professionals of their choice,” Saxena told Sportstar. “By that time, I was left with little options. I did approach Rajasthan but they didn’t seem to be keen. I couldn’t really retire on the field but still have no regrets over the last two decades.”

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A stout opener, Saxena scored 7,637 runs in 129 first-class matches, including 17 hundreds and 38 fifties. With 7,225 runs in Ranji Trophy, he is among 21 batsmen with 7,000-plus runs in the tournament. He obviously picked the week in Chennai in January 2012 as the highlight of his 21 seasons in top-flight cricket. His 257 in the first innings was spanned over 904 minutes, the third longest innings in the history of first class cricket. He also achieved a rare distinction of batting on all five days of the final.

“Having been a part of the Ranji Trophy-winning team of Rajasthan in both the seasons is the biggest achievement. That I was the man of the match in the final was an icing on the cake. Obviously, I wanted to play for India but that didn’t happen. Still, I have had a pretty good career, so no regrets.”

Saxena, having already cleared Level 1 coaching certification course at the National Cricket Academy, now hopes he can contribute as a coach in second innings. “It’s a new challenge, I hope I get an opportunity. It’s a new innings and I would love to start off with an under-19 team since you can actually work on players’ techniques and show your coaching skills at that level. Hopefully I can get an opportunity soon,” he signed off.