Saurashtra owes a lot to Kotak

VIVEK BENDRE

Sitanshu Kotak inspired a lot of cricketers in Saurashtra. He fought a lone battle for his beloved State and his commitment is beyond question as he took up the responsibility of opening the innings at the age of 40.

There are several cricketers who harbour the regret of not being a part of a victorious Ranji trophy side. Sitanshu Kotak, the dogged left-hander, will join the long list as Saurashtra faltered at the Wankhede Stadium. It must have been a long walk for him as he nicked the ball to the keeper off Agarkar moments before lunch on the third day. He has been the bulwark of the Saurashtra batting line-up over the years and a lot was expected of him in the maiden final for Saurashtra. The little-known State, at least in cricket, has emerged as a force to reckon with in recent years and Kotak should go down as the main pillar for the team’s progress against all odds. He was the torch-bearer of Saurashtra and I thought, he would grind the opposition for hours at one end. The genial southpaw knew his limitations and played within them.

The arrival of Pujara and Jadeja in the scene provided the backup for Kotak that he missed for most part of his career. If Pujara has put Saurashtra on the World map of cricket, a lot of credit must go to Kotak too. He inspired a lot of cricketers in Saurashtra. Kotak fought a lone battle for his beloved State and his commitment is beyond question as he took up the responsibility of opening the innings at the age of 40.

Normally batsmen tend to sage in terms of responsibility with the passage of time but Kotak led from the front as a senior cricketer is expected to when the team management struggled to find volunteers. Apart from the runs he scored and the hours he spent frustrating the bowlers, his contribution in the slips often gets overlooked. A safe catcher that he is, he did not grass too many realising fairly well that catches need to be taken on flat tracks like Rajkot, the home turf of Saurashtra, where the team played most of its matches.

The season 2012/13 would perhaps be a swansong for Kotak as even he cannot go on forever but he will have to console himself that he at least played in a final. Kotak will be happy that his State is no more a pushover that it was a decade ago. The Pujaras and Jadejas will hog the limelight no doubt but Indian cricket will be indebted to many like Kotak who keep the game going despite not getting any great financial rewards or recognition in other ways. They are the ones who epitomise passion which is not really seen in many upcoming cricketers. Kotak will no doubt cherish the moments he has shared on the field with many stalwarts from the opposition and the battles he won during his career. The personal and professional pride that Kotak played with is admirable and hopefully the younger lot of Saurashtra will do well to emulate him in the years to come.

Kotak may not be remembered for his elegance or his flamboyance but the patience that he displayed while at the crease is folklore. His marathon innings, stretching over 10 hours, against Mumbai in 2007-08 is folklore but unfortunately for him, Kotak could not do an encore. As Kotak reflects on the final, he will be extremely disappointed with the youngsters for their inability to apply and fight it out against the Mumbai medium-pacers. It will be a great temptation for Kotak to have another go in the next season but that is something he should resist lest he might subject himself to severe criticism. He has given his State all he can and perhaps he can look at contributing in some other role with the same dedication that he displayed all these years.