Memorable for Rajasthan

The victorious Rajasthan team.-

Rajasthan's new breed of cricketers, built around the professionals in Maharashtra's Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Delhi's Aakash Chopra and Orissa's Rashmi Ranjan Parida, delivered the goods, and the team won the Ranji Trophy for the first time. Over to G. Vishwanath.

There's a piece of glittering silverware, about 3-1/2 feet high, displayed in the Jamnagar lobby of the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai. It's placed in the centre of the hall and it is impossible not to notice it. It's a virtual remake of the Ranji Trophy, the symbol of supremacy in India's national cricket championship. The trophy was specially made many years ago by the then club President, Raj Singh Dungarpur.

A passionate follower of the game, Raj Singh played 86 first class matches, took 206 wickets bowling medium pace and figured in six of the seven Ranji Trophy finals that Rajasthan lost to Bombay in the 1960s. He acknowledged the Bombay teams of that era as the real champions and held its players in esteem.

Though he lived virtually lived all his life in Mumbai, either at his residence opposite the Wankhede Stadium or at the CCI premises, and also spent many an English summer in a house opposite the Lord's Cricket Ground, Raj Singh's heart throbbed for the well-being of Rajasthan cricket. He wished that his team would win the Ranji Trophy at least once in his lifetime. Meanwhile, he fulfilled another wish by ordering a remake of the Ranji Trophy so that he could see it everyday when he made the CCI his home. It was at the Brabourne Stadium that Rajasthan lost four of the seven finals to mighty Bombay teams, and perhaps this was another reason why Raj Singh thought it fit to exhibit the trophy at the CCI, also regarded once as the home of Indian cricket.

Alas, Raj Singh is no more! For, Rajasthan won the Ranji Trophy for the first time in the 77 years of the championship, beating Baroda in Baroda recently. Incidentally, Baroda was one of Raj Singh's favourite cities!

Rajasthan's team of the 1960s had some outstanding cricketers like Vinoo ‘Master' Mankad, Vijay Manjrekar, Salim Durrani, Subhash Gupte, Rusi Surti, Hanumant Singh, Suryaveer Singh, Laxman Singh, Kishen Rungta, Arvind Apte, Kailash Gattani and Parthasarathy Sharma. While this core group failed to beat Bombay seven times, Rajasthan's new breed of cricketers, built around the professionals in Maharashtra's Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Delhi's Aakash Chopra and Orissa's Rashmi Ranjan Parida, not only upset Mumbai in the quarter-finals, but also prevailed over another strong team in Tamil Nadu in the semi-finals before achieving the ultimate goal of winning the final, beating Baroda on the first innings.

The Kanitkar-led team quite comfortably put it across teams in the Plate League that had a second relegated team in Hyderabad, the others being Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Tripura, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. Kanitkar, Chopra and Parida showed the way with some solid contributions with the bat. Chopra made his presence felt against Maharashtra with an unbeaten 301 and thereafter with a 139 against Tamil Nadu in the semi-finals. Kanitkar carried the hopes of the team with a century against Mumbai in the quarter-finals and a half century in the final. Parida stole the thunder in the final and was declared the Man of the Match.

While the three professionals showed a remarkable appetite for runs right through the championship, Ashok Menaria, inducted into the team after he had recovered from surgery, provided the depth from the quarter-finals against Mumbai. He made 121 against Mumbai, 106 against Tamil Nadu in the semi-finals and 101 against Baroda in the final.

Things may have turned in Baroda's favour if Connor Williams had not grassed a dolly at slip when Menaria was on 5 in the second innings. A run later, at 6, the left-hander was again dropped, this time by Abhijit Karambelkar at cover. Rajasthan, up by 33 runs on the first innings, was 71 for four and then 72 for four when Williams and Karambelkar allowed the chances to slip. Menaria went on to thrash the Baroda bowling and reached the coveted three-figure mark on the fifth morning of the match.

While the batsmen delivered the runs and proved to be the backbone, it was the monumental effort from new ball bowlers Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar that probably provided Rajasthan a clear edge. They took nine wickets between them on a surface that was closely cropped by the groundstaff, but lasted well for the duration of the match.

Right from the first day of its campaign at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Pankaj Singh and Chahar took the centre stage, sharing 18 wickets (Pankaj 6 and Chahar 12) in the first match. When they completed the formalities against Baroda with a fast seven-over spell each, they had taken 83 wickets: Pankaj 43 and Chahar 40.

Rajasthan and Baroda competed for the title up to a point before lunch on the fifth day. But the home team gave up after the last wicket pair in Pankaj and Rohit Jhalani stuck to the wicket for quite some time. Both Kanitkar and Baroda agreed to close the match before the start of the mandatory overs.

Amidst the celebrations, the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) announced a bonus of Rs.1 crore for the team.

THE SCORES

Rajasthan — 1st innings: A. Chopra lbw b Bhatt 34; V. Saxena (run out) 31; H. Kanitkar c Williams b Waghmode 61; R. Bist b Bhatt 77; Vivek Yadav lbw b Bhatt 27; R. Parida b Bhatt 56; A. Menaria c Devdhar b Bhatt 45; R. Jhalani b Vohra 9; D. Chahar b Swapnil 8; Pankaj Singh b Swapnil 6; M. Khatri (not out) 0; Extras (b-13, lb-14, w-13) 40. Total: 394.

Fall of wickets: 1-67, 2-73, 3-190, 4-240, 5-269, 6-346, 7-369, 8-384, 9-394.

Baroda bowling: Vahora 36-5-108-0; Vohra 26-9-57-1; Bhatt 42.1-14-103-5, Karambelkar 8-4-12-0; Swapnil 21-4-54-2; Waghmode 14-3-33-1.

Baroda — 1st innings: C. Williams c Chopra b Vivek 17; J. Kolsawala c Jhalani b Vivek 64; K. Devdhar b Vivek 19; A. Waghmode c Kanitkar b Vivek 52; A. Rayudu lbw b Chahar 12; P. Shah lbw b Chahar 77; Swapnil Singh c Saxena b Pankaj 17; A. Karambelkar c Chopra b Chahar 0; S. Vohra (not out) 34; M. Vahora c Chopra b Chahar 36; B. Bhatt c Chopra b Khatri 3; Extras: (b-25, lb-3, w-1, nb-1) 30. Total: 361.

Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-110, 3-113, 4-136, 5-226, 6-266, 7-269, 8-288, 9-356.

Rajasthan bowling: Pankaj 29-7-74-1; Chahar 27-6-79-4; Khatri 39.3-11-80-1; Vivek 40-10-91-4; Menaria 2-1-9-0.

Rajasthan — 2nd innings: A. Chopra lbw b Vohra 5; V. Saxena c Shah b Vahora 0; H. Kanitkar c Williams b Vahora 1; R. Bist c Waghmode b Bhatt 22; R. Parida lbw b Bhatt 89; A. Menaria c & b Waghmode 101; M. Khatri b Vahora 18; Vivek Yadav c Devdhar b Vahora 13; D. Chahar c Devdhar b Swapnil 11; Pankaj Singh b Karambelkar 24; R. Jhalani (not out) 43; Extras (b-11, lb-1, w-2) 14. Total: 341.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-6, 3-11, 4-61, 5-226, 6-232, 7-258, 8-265, 9-282.

Baroda bowling: Vahora 28-5-94-4; Vohra 14-4-35-1; Bhatt 45-8-117-2; Swapnil 19-10-33-1; Waghmode 18-7-34-1; Devdhar 1-0-2-0; Karambelkar 2.1-0-9-1; Rayudu 2-0-5-0.

Baroda — 2nd innings: J. Kolsawala c Jhalani b Pankaj 13; K. Devdhar c Saxena b Chahar 5; A. Waghmode c & b Chahar 4; Swapnil Singh c Chopra b Chahar 2; A. Karambelkar (not out) 2; A. Rayudu (not out) 2; Extras: 0. Total (for four wkts.) 28.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-18, 3-21, 4-24.

Rajasthan bowling: Pankaj 7-2-13-1, Chahar 7-2-15-3.