Playing to plan

Paceman Deepak Chahar...making waves. Ashok Menaria...full of promise.-PICS: R.V. MOORTHY

Rajasthan has shown that a side that knows its limitations and is prepared to acknowledge them will surely make it all the way.

The 2010-11 Ranji season threw up some surprises and in the end the least fancied team went on to win the coveted silverware. At the start of the knock-out phase, even the most optimistic supporters of Rajasthan would not have expected their team to get past the quarter-final stage. However, the young team guided by experienced professionals marched on in a spirited manner with purpose and togetherness. At the start of the season their main objective would have been to get into the Elite line-up for the coming year. Anything beyond that would have been a bonus.

A young debutant, Deepak Chahar, made waves in the early part of the season by making a sensational debut against Hyderabad with a flattering return of 8 for 10. His dream spell made him a star overnight and obviously everyone in the fraternity was curious to see this young man.

Chahar looked impressive and his ability to make the ball swing either way made life difficult for the batsmen across 22 yards. He has rubbished the general notion that the SG ball that is used in the domestic circuit only facilitates reverse swing. The young man showed that the SG ball can be made to wobble prodigiously provided one has the required skill sets. His rare ability apart, his enthusiasm and attitude were a delight to watch. Of course, he will not give any batsman nightmares in terms of speed, but for batsmen with limited technique, he will be a serious threat. His consistent performances right through the season was one of the prime factors for Rajasthan's historic triumph. Chahar should bag the most promising cricketer of the year award without a doubt and his skills notwithstanding, the manner in which he kept his composure when appeals were negated was a revelation. These days youngsters tend to emote more than required, but Chahar rarely displayed unwarranted emotions. He was ably supported by his experienced partner Pankaj Singh and their collective destruction with the ball ensured that Rajasthan created history.

As Hrishikesh Kanitkar looks back at the season, he will be delighted with the way an inexperienced team shaped up and he along with Akaash Chopra and Kulamani Parida deserve all the credit for forging a combative unit. It is easy for the professionals to be professionals by way of performing as individuals, but to motivate and raise the bar of a team that was riddled with controversies and deprived of ambition as a result takes a lot of doing.

The youngsters in the Rajasthan side proved that patience is a virtue while they were at the crease and the frustration they built up in the opposition ranks by grinding them relentlessly broke the spirit of the best of teams like Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. Rajasthan really tested the patience of the Tamil Nadu side in all the departments in the semi-final and eventually the supposed heavyweights lost. The Rajasthan side played with a simple plan of prevailing over the opponents by sheer patience, but what separated them from the rest was in the implementation of their plans. At no stage did the inexperienced players take matters into their hands and try to play as per as their own thought process. It is easy to fall prey to individual thoughts, thereby deviating from the collective objective. But the Rajasthan boys resisted any such temptations and worked towards achieving the collective goal of the team day in and day out.

The deviation by individuals from the team plan probably cost Mumbai dearly. Their batsmen kept playing shots to be dismissed cheaply and the team had to exit in the quarter-final stage itself. This was one mistake the Rajasthan side never committed and hence they achieved their objective.

The successful season provided opportunities for Menaria, a young promising batsman to make others sit up and take notice. The free stroking left-hander scored centuries in the knock-out games against good attacks and hopefully he will realise that one swallow does not make a summer. He will be the mainstay of the Rajasthan side in the years to come and it is important that he builds on what has been a very good start to his first class career. The second season can be tricky for anyone achieving success in the debut season and as such the next season will test the left-hander in every respect.

Rajasthan has shown that a side that knows its limitations and is prepared to acknowledge them will surely make it all the way. As for the other fancied units, it was a matter of yet another year of coming so near, but not so close enough. Rajasthan's triumph also underlines the fact that a collective team rather than a collection of extremely talented players in a side will always emerge successful.