Ranji Trophy, 2010-11 January 16, 2011

Local players made the difference

While the feeling is yet to sink in completely, the big question has already popped up
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While the feeling is yet to sink in completely, the big question has already popped up : what was it that catapulted "Team Rajasthan", bottom till the previous year, lost in the abyss of oblivion, straight up to the topmost honour of bagging the Ranji Trophy? After all, creating history isn't expected of underdogs. Perhaps, that's exactly what worked in our favour: the surprise element, and our reputation.

Even though the professionals came in handy, it was the local talent in Deepak Chahar, Ashok Menaria, Pankaj Singh and Vivek Yadav, that came to the fore and made all the difference. Yet, Rajasthan's resurrection wasn't just about a bunch of young lads with fire in their belly. The dream was in the making for the past two years.

The regime change under Sanjay Dixit brought in path-breaking changes that were meticulously conceived and executed with cricket as the top most priority. Cricket think tank, Tarak Sinha, whose Sonnet Cricket Club has produced more Test and first-class cricketers than the number of cricket academies thriving in the capital, was then roped in to head the academy. While his technical fluency helped the game grow, his guidance helped the academy find its long lost perspective.

Instead of doing anything fancy, Rajasthan went only as far as Mumbai for inspiration and adopted the system which worked wonders for them i.e. organizing days' matches at all age-group levels, among other steps. While most states were busy promoting their domestic T20 leagues, Rajasthan quietly put their house in order to prepare the kids for the longer format. It doesn't come as a surprise that Rajasthan's Under-16 team has also reached the semi-finals - another first in their history.

The emergence of Chahar and Menaria isn't a mere coincidence either. Chahar was ignored by Greg Chappell and it was Sinha who brought him back into the fold. Menaria's season was as good as over after his groin injury, but RCA didn't leave any stone unturned to get him up and running in double-quick time. Batting professionals in Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Rashmi Ranjan Parida, and myself, were then brought in, much to everyone's surprise. But they had everything sorted well in advance, for batting was the real bane. Fortunately, everything fell in to place just right.

And it wasn't just the cricket we played in the last two-and-a-half months which brought us here, for we had spent both quality and quantity time in the off-season to get rid of the chinks in our armoury. Rajasthan had identified both its personnel and their roles way back in August while most teams were not even thinking about the season yet. You would be surprised that the squad which defeated Vadodara in the Ranji finals is almost identical to the one which played in the Buchi Babu tournament in August. This shows consistency in the selection process which not only provides continuity but also stability. Due credit should be given to president C P Joshi, who allowed things to run its course and never interfered.

In the end though, it was the dressing room that made all the difference. This is one of the happiest I've ever been a part of, with players not only looking after each other but also feeling genuinely happy in each other's success. The camaraderie, the self belief which grew with every game and the deep desire to make it happen sealed the deal in Rajasthan's favour. The season which could have well finished in five games has lasted twice as many.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RakeshM on January 27, 2011, 2:15 GMT

    Akash, I make it a point to read all your articles. Good Job. Congratulations to Rajasthan!! I hope we see see more players from Rajasthan in our national team especially bowlers from your bowling factory

  • shashi katikaneni on January 25, 2011, 20:12 GMT

    Aakash Congratulations to you and Team Rajasthan on their unebeleivable achievement. My question to you is Pankaj Singh ready to step into Team India. He seems to have the physique of Chris Tremlett. Is Pankaj ready Aakash??

  • ashish arora on January 25, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    @Shishir: I remember reading about you from your Mumbai days. (Yes, I realise this dates me.) It would be good to hear more of your thoughts on what is going on in domestic cricket. @akash: Thanks for a very interesting post, and it is wonderful to see Rajasthan do so well (I remember folks like Kailash Gattani, Parthasarthi Sharma and Mathur who used to play for them in the 1970s and 1980s - before your time but were familiar names when I was growing up.)

  • shishir hattangadi on January 23, 2011, 5:27 GMT

    This team deserves the 'champion' status! congratulations to all of you! Having watched the final the defining moment for me was,despite having the match sealed on the last day,I could see the energy in Chahar and Singh to pick up wickets in the last session of the last day.This,despite,a long and tiring season.I've been a part of the Mumbai winning team on many an occasion,but never seen this quality of letting the opposition know who is dominating even after the match is sealed. I hope other teams take a leaf out of this 'intent' of a champion team.It shows that money,fame and egos are non existent in this dressing room and there is a lesson to be imbibed for all who want a success template for a team sport!

  • AMIT KUMAR SINGH on January 22, 2011, 20:18 GMT

    Congrats to u and rajsthan team and hope to see some of the players in indian colours and IPL as well.

  • vpnavin on January 20, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    congratulations Rajasthan for the way you played and showed the whole nation what is teamwork and the result is there. BRAVO

  • murali dev on January 20, 2011, 4:03 GMT

    Congratulation to Rajasthan's team

  • Narayanan M on January 19, 2011, 16:37 GMT

    Rajasthan deserved the title for the simple reason that it eliminated Mumbai, not an easy task as any Ranji team would attest. Hoping that Pankaj Singh comes back into national reckoning.

    Request your team to play more for outright wins on pitches with life in them, like the ones we see in SA in the current series

  • tinku on January 18, 2011, 23:05 GMT

    Congratulations to you and your team!

  • Srini on January 18, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    Always feels great when the underdogs catch the big prize. Everyone involved with Rajasthan's Ranji cricket team deserve a big congrats!. Now, I hope the selectors encourage and pick some of their players for higher honors, since no competition is bigger than Ranji in the longer format and the boys must have performed better than the more fancied teams.

  • RakeshM on January 27, 2011, 2:15 GMT

    Akash, I make it a point to read all your articles. Good Job. Congratulations to Rajasthan!! I hope we see see more players from Rajasthan in our national team especially bowlers from your bowling factory

  • shashi katikaneni on January 25, 2011, 20:12 GMT

    Aakash Congratulations to you and Team Rajasthan on their unebeleivable achievement. My question to you is Pankaj Singh ready to step into Team India. He seems to have the physique of Chris Tremlett. Is Pankaj ready Aakash??

  • ashish arora on January 25, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    @Shishir: I remember reading about you from your Mumbai days. (Yes, I realise this dates me.) It would be good to hear more of your thoughts on what is going on in domestic cricket. @akash: Thanks for a very interesting post, and it is wonderful to see Rajasthan do so well (I remember folks like Kailash Gattani, Parthasarthi Sharma and Mathur who used to play for them in the 1970s and 1980s - before your time but were familiar names when I was growing up.)

  • shishir hattangadi on January 23, 2011, 5:27 GMT

    This team deserves the 'champion' status! congratulations to all of you! Having watched the final the defining moment for me was,despite having the match sealed on the last day,I could see the energy in Chahar and Singh to pick up wickets in the last session of the last day.This,despite,a long and tiring season.I've been a part of the Mumbai winning team on many an occasion,but never seen this quality of letting the opposition know who is dominating even after the match is sealed. I hope other teams take a leaf out of this 'intent' of a champion team.It shows that money,fame and egos are non existent in this dressing room and there is a lesson to be imbibed for all who want a success template for a team sport!

  • AMIT KUMAR SINGH on January 22, 2011, 20:18 GMT

    Congrats to u and rajsthan team and hope to see some of the players in indian colours and IPL as well.

  • vpnavin on January 20, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    congratulations Rajasthan for the way you played and showed the whole nation what is teamwork and the result is there. BRAVO

  • murali dev on January 20, 2011, 4:03 GMT

    Congratulation to Rajasthan's team

  • Narayanan M on January 19, 2011, 16:37 GMT

    Rajasthan deserved the title for the simple reason that it eliminated Mumbai, not an easy task as any Ranji team would attest. Hoping that Pankaj Singh comes back into national reckoning.

    Request your team to play more for outright wins on pitches with life in them, like the ones we see in SA in the current series

  • tinku on January 18, 2011, 23:05 GMT

    Congratulations to you and your team!

  • Srini on January 18, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    Always feels great when the underdogs catch the big prize. Everyone involved with Rajasthan's Ranji cricket team deserve a big congrats!. Now, I hope the selectors encourage and pick some of their players for higher honors, since no competition is bigger than Ranji in the longer format and the boys must have performed better than the more fancied teams.

  • kuresh on January 18, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    I was wondering why rajasthan royals didnt make lots of pick in the auctions as they had spotted talented youngsters in their own backyard.

  • Abhishek on January 18, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    i think it shows that only performance matter and not the reputation

  • Anand V on January 18, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    amazing story...well done aakash..congrats to u and all the boys..this is the kind of story that we need more in India; people beating the odds, superb

  • sr gopal on January 18, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    After reading Akash Chopra,i feel he is a SK GURUNATHAN-a doyen of Indian cricket journalism-in the making.It is a pleasure to read articles by Akash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar.unfortunately Sanjay seems to have stopped writing-a great pity.While almost all other cricketers inwho have Newspaper columns employ Ghost Writers,India can be proud of its cricketers who their own columns;one more field where India leads the world.congrats to Rajasthan on winning the Ranji Trophy.Theirs seems to be an example of what good organisation can achieve.Indian cricket can and will prosper if other associations follow theie example.My only grouse is that the Jaipur pitch needs to be changed.It is too flat,too slow with hardly any bounce.If this pitch is changed,then Rajasthan can produce such quality cricketers that there will be no need to "import"professionals to sustain their success.

  • ATUL DEO on January 18, 2011, 5:48 GMT

    commendable effort .. exemplary..Will Orissa's Bevan take a clue ?

  • ne on January 18, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    Great stuff Aakash! The professionals led from the front and the local lads aimed for the stars. Extremely inspiring stuff from Rajasthan, well deserved champions of the Ranji Trophy.

    This is exactly what the domestic scene needed.

  • AB on January 18, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    Awesome.. Aakash! I've been keenly following Rajasthan's journey this year even though am from Delhi. Congratulations.. and reading your column shows how much good team selection + management can do to the players! Way to go.. Expecting greater things from Menaria, Chahar and the likes soon.

  • Manasvi on January 17, 2011, 18:14 GMT

    Hi Akash,

    Nice piece. I'd really like to see an article from you with brief descriptions of XI players who you think may play for India/become very good domestic players in the future. I'd like to see a piece of Menaria like the one you wrote on Chahar. it is a great achievement to score centuries in the quarters, semis and finals. In the olden days, this would have been sufficient to push someone close to selection. Would also like to see your opinions on other talented players around in domestic cricket such as Rahane, Pandey, Pankaj Singh, Bhargav Bhatt, Iqbal Abdulla, Vikas Mishra, etc.

  • Jithin on January 17, 2011, 16:36 GMT

    It is a really good performance by rajasthan.it is good for indian cricket to have champions other than mumbai.

  • nag on January 17, 2011, 16:32 GMT

    good work done well

  • H.N.RAVINDRA on January 17, 2011, 14:21 GMT

    Congratulations - Rajasthan for successful triumph - Hope their players get their due in IPLs and get into Indian team.

  • venkat on January 17, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    Congrats!! Chahar is a serious talent. I have never come across a bowler at domestic level who can swing the ball both ways at will. Rajasthan has produced a serious talent and it is up to the board to take care of him.

  • Anuj Suneja on January 17, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    Congratulations!! Hope many other states will take a cue from this and focus on the pureest form of cricket for the junior players. Well done Rajasthan!

  • Satish on January 17, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    Many Congratulations! Was fantastic to see a traditional non-cricketing entity making a statement in such grand style. keep it going.

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  • Satish on January 17, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    Many Congratulations! Was fantastic to see a traditional non-cricketing entity making a statement in such grand style. keep it going.

  • Anuj Suneja on January 17, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    Congratulations!! Hope many other states will take a cue from this and focus on the pureest form of cricket for the junior players. Well done Rajasthan!

  • venkat on January 17, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    Congrats!! Chahar is a serious talent. I have never come across a bowler at domestic level who can swing the ball both ways at will. Rajasthan has produced a serious talent and it is up to the board to take care of him.

  • H.N.RAVINDRA on January 17, 2011, 14:21 GMT

    Congratulations - Rajasthan for successful triumph - Hope their players get their due in IPLs and get into Indian team.

  • nag on January 17, 2011, 16:32 GMT

    good work done well

  • Jithin on January 17, 2011, 16:36 GMT

    It is a really good performance by rajasthan.it is good for indian cricket to have champions other than mumbai.

  • Manasvi on January 17, 2011, 18:14 GMT

    Hi Akash,

    Nice piece. I'd really like to see an article from you with brief descriptions of XI players who you think may play for India/become very good domestic players in the future. I'd like to see a piece of Menaria like the one you wrote on Chahar. it is a great achievement to score centuries in the quarters, semis and finals. In the olden days, this would have been sufficient to push someone close to selection. Would also like to see your opinions on other talented players around in domestic cricket such as Rahane, Pandey, Pankaj Singh, Bhargav Bhatt, Iqbal Abdulla, Vikas Mishra, etc.

  • AB on January 18, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    Awesome.. Aakash! I've been keenly following Rajasthan's journey this year even though am from Delhi. Congratulations.. and reading your column shows how much good team selection + management can do to the players! Way to go.. Expecting greater things from Menaria, Chahar and the likes soon.

  • ne on January 18, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    Great stuff Aakash! The professionals led from the front and the local lads aimed for the stars. Extremely inspiring stuff from Rajasthan, well deserved champions of the Ranji Trophy.

    This is exactly what the domestic scene needed.

  • ATUL DEO on January 18, 2011, 5:48 GMT

    commendable effort .. exemplary..Will Orissa's Bevan take a clue ?