No more an also-ran

Vidharbha was named the Team of the Year award, at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

The Vidarbha team which won both the Ranji and Irani Trophy in 2018.   -  Vivek Bendre

During his glittering two-decade-long career as a coach — mostly in domestic cricket, barring a stint with India Under-19 — Chandrakant Pandit has built a reputation as a messiah of lesser-known teams in the Ranji Trophy. So, when Vidarbha, after chasing him for almost a decade, finally got Pandit to guide the team in 2017-18 after faltering in the quarterfinals for the last few years, Pandit got into the act right away.

Along with captain Faiz Fazal, the former India stumper shortlisted players who wanted to thrive at a higher level rather than being content with playing one season after another in domestic cricket. It meant most of the seniors were sent packing, but with the full support of the association that is controlled single-handedly, Pandit and Fazal did wonders in no time.

Eighteen months down the line, Vidarbha became only the sixth team in Ranji Trophy history to win back-to-back titles. If its maiden title in 2017-18 was termed as a fluke, the undefeated run in the recently concluded season silenced all of its critics.

Thanks to its achievements on the field, Vidarbha has firmly established itself on the cricketing map rather than being known as the home turf of Shashank Manohar, the former Board of Control for Cricket in India president who is now the International Cricket Council chairman.

Besides stressing on the hard work of the state’s cricketers, Vidarbha Cricket Association president Anand Jaiswal highlighted Manohar’s vision.

“The journey of the Vidarbha team to its recent successes has not been very easy and the seeds were sown about 10 years ago by our then president Shashank Manohar by providing excellent coaching, infrastructure, etc., to the players. This has been a talking point in Vidarbha and it raised the aspirations of youngsters all over the region,” Jaiswal said after accepting the Team of the Year award, at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

Having shed its reputation of an also-ran team, it’s time for Vidarbha to produce more homegrown players who could start knocking on the national selectors’ doors.