New Delhi: Mumbai, Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the teams which have always dominated the domestic cricket circuit. However, Vidarbha, one of the lower rated teams not too long ago — has changed people’s assumptions and has done the unexpected. This team not only won the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup during the 2017-18 season but also successfully defended both titles this year.
When Vidarbha won both the tournaments last year, many critics said it was just a fluke. But by successfully defending both the titles, the team has proved everyone wrong. There were many heroes behind Vidarbha’s victory as when a team wins, not only the players on the field but also the entire support staff, coaches, players off the field contribute in some way or the other.
It was a surprise for many that a team which always failed to qualify for the knockout stage has four major titles to its name now. The reason behind it is the players hard work and coach Chandrakant Pandit. Pandit, who played five Tests and 36 ODIs for India, was named Vidarbha’s coach in the 2017-18 season and guided the team to victory in his very first year in office. Pandit, however, is infamous in the domestic circuit for his tough coaching style.
The 57-year-old coach imposes a fine of Rs 500 on the bowlers for every no ball during a practice session and also personally speaks to the players for boosting their morale. Before coming to Nagpur, Pandit had led Mumbai to become Ranji champions. Aditya Sarwate, who played a significant role for Vidarbha in the Ranji final, said, “We took every game as a do-or-die affair which has been our plus point. Chandu Sir’s approach has been effective as he never takes any team lightly.”
According to Sarwate, walking on the path showed by Pandit is the main reason behind Vidarbha’s success. Not only Pandit, there have been many heroes for Vidarbha and one such name is Wasim Jaffer, who switched to this team from Mumbai. Once a member of the Indian Test team, Jaffer joined Vidarbha in the 2015-16 season. Jaffer had earlier led Mumbai to become Ranji champions and has tremendous experience of big matches which proved helpfull for Vidarbha.
Jaffer, who accumulated 1037 runs from 15 innings, not only contributed with the bat but also played a crucial role in the team’s strategy making. He did not play in the Irani Cup but mentored the team. In sports like cricket, a team’s success revolves around it’s captain. Faiz Fazal turned out to be Vidarbha’s most successful captain.
From being a key strategy maker on the field, Fazal, who plays as an opener, also provided strong starts to his team. Sarwate also acknowledged that Jaffer and Fazal’s presence strengthened Vidarbha’s batting. “Wasim is a legend as his presence in the team is a huge factor. Fazal is also doing well for the team regularly. Our batting was strong because of these two and a big credit goes to Wasim and Fazal for our success,” Sarwate said.
In both the seasons, the team combination was almost the same however, the heroes were different which shows Vidarbha has not tasted success relying on any particular player. In the last season, apart from Jaffer and Fazal, Akshay Wadkar was also impressive with the bat while Rajneesh Gurbani starred with the ball, leading Vidarbha to bag consecutive titles.
This year, the story changed as players like Sarwate and Akshay Karnewar hogged the limelight and their impressive show helped Vidarbha defend the title. Akshay Wakhare, Umesh Yadav and Ganesh Satish also joined the list. In this season, Vidarbha played to a draw in their first three games but outclassed Chhattisgarh by 10 wickets in the fourth match.
The Ranji champions didn’t lose even one game this season. In the last two years, the major change in the Vidarbha team has been their hunger to prove themselves. This hunger united the team and made Vidarbha a champion team, defeating whom became a herculean task for many big teams.