“This is the quintessential underdog story,” says Aakash Chopra, the first ever player to lead Rajasthan to India’s prestigious Ranji Trophy in the tournament’s 77-year history.
And it’s hard to disagree – Rajasthan had been the whipping boys of Indian cricket for decades, a non-entity in the grand scheme of the Ranji Trophy. It was only in the 2010/11 when Chopra was invited to play for Rajasthan as a guest player in the Ranji Plate Group, that an entire state’s cricketing destiny would be re-written for the considerable future.
Not only did Rajasthan manage to qualify from the Plate Group, but they went on to win the Ranji Trophy for the first time in Rajasthan’s existence, “a rags-to-riches success story,” as Chopra describes it.
As if this feat wasn’t remarkable enough, Rajasthan successfully defended their title in 2011/12, putting to bed any doubts about the previous season being a freakish one-off.
Intrigued by this unique success story in Indian cricket, in April, we travelled to Rajasthan, in search of the reasons behind Rajasthan’s success. Through speaking to countless players and administrators, there was a palpable sense of cohesion, and the feel-good factor was plain to see in a set-up that had defied the odds.
From making up the numbers to blazing a trail, Rajasthan now have the likes of Pankaj Singh and Ashok Menaria performing in the IPL, and also have the likes of Robin Bist on the radar of the national selectors.
In this mini-documentary, we speak to those at the heart of Rajasthan’s surge in success, and get to the heart of what makes a successful team - meticulous planning, top-of-the-range facilities for promising youngsters, as well as excellent leadership both on and off the pitch.
All Indian teams should be looking at Rajasthan as an example of how to build a team that is the sum of its parts, and not based on individual accomplishments.
[Running Time - 24:32]
Thanks to the following (in order of appearance): Aakash Chopra, Chandrakant Pandit, Pankaj Singh, Ratnakar Shetty, Ayaz Memon, K.K Sharma, Rituraj Singh, C.P Joshi, Vineet Saxena, Lakshyar Singh Mewar.
Published with permission from Alternative Cricket...cricket for grown-ups.