Faiz Fazal and company create magic to win maiden Ranji Trophy

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Jan 2018 10:06:44


By Rahul Dixit,

THERE is a certain romanticism -- sometimes bordering on sadism -- that goes with the triumph of have-nots. Their victory carries a massive sense of gratification. It is a dream that has everybody’s share, from the people in action to the silent commoners who consider the felling of Goliath as their equal. Such dreams, when they come true, become an instance for lifetime, never to be erased from the memory. On the New Year Day, the entire Vidarbha region got their moment of swagger when Faiz Fazal lifted the Ranji Trophy -- the biggest silverware in Indian cricket. Never forget the date... January 1, 2018.

As Wasim Jaffer pulled Kulwant Khejroliya towards fine-leg at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, an inscrutable joy swept across the fans of Vidarbha cricket. This was the hour they were waiting for, for six decades. Fazal’s Fighters delivered them the ultimate gift of 2018 right on the first day. Vidarbha are the Champions... India’s Best Cricket Team.

As they beat a hopelessly out of sorts Delhi by nine wickets with a day to spare in the historic final, a glorious journey of heart, sweat and blood culminated into gold. It was a triumph of Vidarbha’s own belief and an intent that prevailed over every comers in domestic cricket. Talk about Leicester City’s triumph in the English Premier League in 2016 and then put Vidarbha’s Ranji triumph on the same pedestal. It is a story for reels and reams.None gave them a chance when the season began in October. The favourite whipping boys of Central Zone were never ever in the thoughts of cricketing behemoths strutting in Indian domestic circuit. But none knew what was being ingrained in the minds of a bunch of willing cricketers at the VCA Cricket Academy in July 2017. Within a few months the nation woke up and took note of what dream-chasers can do to fulfill it.

Pandit, the pied-piper

Chandrakant Pandit is the best thing that has happened to Vidarbha cricket. The day he came to sign the dotted line as coach he got down to business. There was a pep talk and a first-hand experience of the attitude and ability of Vidarbha’s cricketers. He asked them their goal, listened patiently, and separated them in various groups.

In Fazal, the head coach, Pandit instantly found the same wavelength. The pair hit it off quickly and took the others under their wings. Jaffer and Ganesh Satish formed the pivots around whom the likes of R Sanjay, Apoorv Wankhade, Rajneesh Gurbani, Akshay Wadkar, Siddesh Neral, Akshay Karnewar, Aditya Sarvate and others blossomed. The presence of Karn Sharma as a professional was an added incentive. That Karn was hardly needed in most of the crucial games tells the triumph of our home-grown cricketers.

“What do you want to do this season,” Pandit asked the team. Many talked of their goals and a few touched the lofty dream of lifting the Ranji Trophy. This was enough as a trigger for Pandit to reel in his Mumbai culture of fighting cricket. Rest, as they say is history.

Pack of wolves
The numbers this season tells the story of a pack who prowled like hungry wolves. For them Ranji title had become a central idea. They went on demolishing top teams with great élan. Punjab, Bengal, Karnataka, and now Delhi... they fell prey to the ruthless pack.
Outright victories in the league phases and fightback from hopeless situations have become milestones in the momentous journey.
The final saw all the ingredients that made Team Vidarbha a force. A debutant like Aditya Thakare standing up to the challenge. A boy full of energy like Gurbani spitting fire with spells from hell. Old war-horses like Jaffer and Fazal guarding the fort. Unusual suspects like Wadkar and Sarvate stemming rot. Seasoned warrior like Akshay Wakhare playing his part despite being out of action for long. They all make champions, worthy champions.

The seeds for this long journey were sown long ago. Lack of motivation and severe mental blocks had kept Vidarbha among the backbenchers of Indian cricket for long. There were a few sparks of inspiration but those were just individual shows.
It was way back in 2002 the late Dr Mosur Nagarajan Dorairajan unfolded his ambitious programme ‘Manolakshya’ to catch the young talent.
With a solid backing of then VCA President Shashank Manohar the ‘Manolakshya’ started becoming a silent
game-changer. Modern infrastructure and a residential
academy added to the facilities and talent scouting in
districts too became an important agenda.The youngsters, too, have answered to the faith reposed in them. Many of the current players have come through age-group channel. All were very well handled by their coaches in junior group and the result is for everyone to see.

Professionals pay off
VCA’s openness to have professional services of former or top India starts, too, paid dividends. Hemang Badani was a source of strength for many youngsters during his time with Vidarbha. His century to win a match despite a broken thumb is still talked with amazement in the dressing room.
When such stories of victory of a determined will reverberate in the mind they form a dream. A dream, that Fazal’s Fighters have fulfilled.
Hail Vidarbha!