'Career has gone too quick' - Kotak
Shitanshu Kotak, who played his 100th Ranji game this season, was a relieved man after Saurashtra defeated Assam by 172 runs and avoided relegation to the Plate league. Saurashtra knew at the start of the game that they needed to win; a first-innings lead or a draw wouldn't do and they prepared a spinner's track to play to their strength. "Assam had just offspinners; we had a left-arm spinner," Kotak said. "One thing was certain, we needed a result. The wicket was turning from day 1."
Saurashtra, who batted first, were shot out for 140 but they managed to get a 13-run lead. Kotak, who made 44 in the first innings, was run out for 29 in the second, backing up too far at the non-striker's end but Ravindra Jadeja produced a fine knock of 84 to push Saurashtra to 235 before the bowlers took over. Today, Assam reached 67 for 3 but Amol Muzumdar fell to open the floodgates. The rest collapsed in a heap as Kamlesh Makvana picked up a six-for.
Kotak was relieved at the end of the day but looked back at the season with mixed feelings. He felt the loss against Gujarat was the turning point. "We had the first-innings lead but one bad session in the second cost us dearly and we lost by two wickets. If we had won that, who knows we might still be in the running for qualification for the knockout. Ranji Trophy league can be tough; one bad game can change it. We should have finished off that game."
Kotak admitted that Saurashtra didn't play well as a unit. "It was an average season. I think we didn't do well in both batting and bowling. In batting, only Jogiyani and I crossed 300 runs. In bowling, if you take out this game, no bowler got 10 wickets. The good thing is we stay in the Super League and will bounce back strongly next season."
Saurashtra might not remember this season fondly as a team but Kotak had a memorable personal moment when he played his 100th Ranji game. He also brought up his 7000th run during that game against Railways in which he hit a fifty. No other Saurashtra player has tallied 5000 runs or played 100 games. "I am grateful for the career I have had; I don't have any regrets. Playing for India doesn't happen for everybody. I worked hard and god has been kind."
Kotak, who is famous for his stonewalling knocks, has been one of the chief forces behind Saurashtra's rise from the anonymity of the Plate league. "I am very pleased that I played my part in getting the team to Elite. What gives me the greatest satisfaction was that I performed in the big games. As a team, once we had three to four performers, especially after the youngsters like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja came in, we started to win. Players started to believe in themselves. They started to think they can compete and qualify for quarterfinals and semi-finals."
He has no definite plans on how long he will continue to play. "I think it's [career] gone too quick, too fast. I have lots of happy memories and have no plans for the future. I will continue playing till I feel I am good enough and can contribute to the team's cause. When I stop enjoying, I will step down."