The ‘team first’ approach is the foundation on which Saurashtra has grown on to become a two-time Ranji Trophy champion and is keen to carry on its good work to win more laurels.
After beating Bengal in its backyard to win the Ranji title for the second time in three seasons, coach Niraj Odedra looked back at the factors that built the side as a champion unit.
“Even before winning the Ranji Trophy for the first time in 2020, we had developed a team culture where everyone wanted to contribute for the team. There were no individual goals or figures,” Odedra told Sportstar.
“Saurashtra has hunger and that comes from the culture you develop, from the sort of environment you build. Everybody is happy for each other and there is no jealousy.”
The other driving force was the self-belief in the side, filled with ‘down-to-earth’ players. “Self-belief comes from the performance. When you do well as a team, it only gets better. When you have this sort of players (Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Jaydev Unadkat) who are part of the Indian team and come into the side, they pass on whatever ideas they gather. That helps in building self-belief.”
Odedra said even though captain Unadkat could not play all the matches this season due to India duty, he closely followed Saurashtra’s progress and played an integral part by leading the side by setting examples.
“He (Unadkat) is amazing, he is so energetic. He is constantly thinking about the team. It is not easy. I have seen other captains when they think too much they tend to lose the flow. But this guy is so energetic, a very smart cricketer. That makes him a different cricketer. If you look at his workout routine, you will be surprised. He is working out in a similar way what an under-19 and under-21 player should do. His diet and overall lifestyle is so good. The energy you see on the field comes from the overall mixture of diet, workout and how hard he works on his fitness.”
Reflecting about the similar wavelength between him and captain Unadkat, Odedra said, “Sometimes when you are working for the team, you think about helping the team with certain ideas. The coach and captain think similarly and every time you don’t have to tell each other. If you have this sort of coordination, the results can only be good. We are such an experienced side. You don’t need to coach them all the time. You need to help them,” said Odedra.
The coach was pleased with batting mainstay Arpit Vasavada for rising to the occasion in the absence of Unadkat and captaining the side when required.
“This year Vasavada’s role changed a bit. He had to lead the side as well as perform as a batsman. He is an unsung hero. He has been a match-winner. Maybe selectors are looking at him and he will get his opportunities.”
The philosophy of grooming multidimensional players also benefitted the team. “In cricket, either you can be a batting all-rounder or a bowling all-rounder. A batter can field well and contribute. People who bowl get runs for the team because a 35-40 run contribution can be handy when they come on to bowl. We have worked on that,” said Odedra, while thanking all Saurashtra Cricket Association members, including its president Jaydev Shah, for their wholehearted support in the journey.
After asserting its dominance in red ball cricket and winning the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy, Saurashtra aims at securing the domestic T20 title.
“The hunger never dies. We have never won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. That will be the next thing. We will try and improve as a team and win that,” said Odedra.
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