Faiz Fazal: ‘We are confident of winning the quarterfinals’

Having overcome a difficult start to the season, Vidarbha, the defending champion, has stormed into the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy. Faiz Fazal, the captain, admits his team has peaked at the right time.

In fine form: Faiz Fazal has scored 622 runs in 12 innings for Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy this season.   -  R. V. Moorthy (File Photo)

By storming into the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy with top spot in the combined points table (Elite Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’), Vidarbha has shown its 2017-18 triumph wasn’t a flash in the pan.

Led by batsman Faiz Fazal, who has three centuries in the tourney, Vidarbha hasn’t been defeated in a single contest so far.

Ahead of the quarterfinal against Uttarakhand beginning on Tuesday, Fazal, speaking to Sportstar, admits his team has peaked at the right time after a difficult start.

Excerpts from an interview:

Being the defending champion, expectations were high. Now that you have reached another quarterfinal, how would you rate the season so far?

There is a healthy pressure and we are enjoying it. If you perform well and make a mark in the domestic circuit, people will be talking about you and there will be pressure of expectations and we are lucky to have that pressure, to be honest. It is also a known factor that being the defending champion, the expectations will be high. But we are keeping things simple. We have been playing very good cricket this season, so we are confident.

But the team did not have a very good start…

I agree that we did not have a very good start to the season, and there were chances of facing outright defeats. But we bounced back and saved the games. So, that shows our character as a team. We played positive cricket, despite conceding first-innings lead. I am happy that we peaked at the right time and now everyone is in very good shape.

When the team was going through a rough phase, how did you keep the players motivated?

We handled things very smartly. We had a few meetings, and we discussed why we were not being consistent. If our batting would click in one innings, the bowling wouldn’t. And it was vice versa. We were not being able to tick all the boxes and we had to rectify the problems quickly.

Vidarbha will be bolstered by the return of fast bowlers Umesh Yadav (left) and Rajneesh Gurbani. Photo: G. P. Sampath Kumar

 

Fortunately, we could rectify the errors and then we bounced back against Baroda and took the first-innings lead. Then, we won back-to-back matches against Chhattisgarh and Railways. Suddenly, we were back in the race. [Later], we got a bonus point against Mumbai, and that was a big thing. Despite going through rough times, we did not allow negativity to creep in.

Read | Missing Rajat Saxena a big blow, says Uttarakhand's Vineet Saxena

Your team has a good mix of youth and experience. What was the role of the senior players when the team wasn’t gaining momentum?

In crunch times, it is important to guide the juniors. They are knew in the set-up and may look a bit confused, so when the things are not going in the right way, the seniors must step up, and that’s exactly what we did. All the seniors played an important role and raised the bar. Right now, we are confident of winning the quarterfinals.

While the other teams play stronger opponents in the quarterfinals, your team takes on Uttarakhand, which topped the Plate group. Don’t you think you guys got a rather easy opposition in such a crucial match?

Comparatively, yes. You have to accept that the other teams are very established in the domestic circuit. Uttarakhand is a new team and has some experienced players. It will be comparatively an easy game but we don’t want to take them lightly. It’s after all a knockout game. We don’t look at the opponents now; [instead, we] focus on our game and aim to raise the bar.

Are there any injury concerns or pull outs?

We don’t have any injury issues. Umesh [Yadav] will be back for us. He is keen to play and also [Rajneesh] Gurbani, who was injured, will be back.

What are the takeaways from the season so far?

Youngsters like Mohit Kale, Akshay Wadkar, [and] Aditya Sarwate have done well, and senior pros like Wasim [Jaffer] bhai have got three hundreds, so have I. So, we have been able to maintain the balance. The only concern is our fielding. It was a similar issue last year as well. We cannot afford to miss important catches and that is something we need to focus on.

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