2017-18 Ranji Trophy Final Preview: Vidarbha eye maiden title, Delhi aim to end nine-year drought
36 venues. 84 group stage matches. After four quarter-finals and two thrilling semi-finals, it all boils down to the final of the 2017-18 season of the Ranji Trophy that will witness the clash of the two best teams this season, Delhi and Vidarbha at the Holkar Stadium in Indore.
Delhi, unbeaten throughout the whole competition, steamrolled Bengal within three days in the semi-finals, while Vidarbha made their way into the record books as they crawled out of the jaws of defeat to clinch a maiden spot in the finals, beating Karnataka by a slender margin of five runs.
In anticipation, here's the overview of the high-voltage clash between seven-time champions Delhi and the spunky Vidarbha line-up, set to take place from 29th of December 2017:
A clash for ages to come
When the ball took the edge of Sreenath Arvind's bat and settled into the hands of Apoorv Wankhade, stationed at gully, every Vidarbha player jumped and danced around as if the clock had struck twelve and it was time to celebrate the dawn of a new year.
The coaching staff and substitutes were all on the ground, tearfully embracing young pacer Rajneesh Gurbani, who had produced probably one of the most memorable spells of his domestic career.
What was heartwarming to see was the reaction of their coach Chandrakant Pandit, who quietly enjoyed the success of his wards. Pandit, who coached Mumbai to successive titles in 2002-03 and in 2003-04 before guiding them to their 41st title in 2015-16, took over the reins at Vidarbha for the current season and his experience has certainly rubbed off on his players.
Mini battles set to add spice to the clash
Taking into account the recent One-Day International clash between India and Sri Lanka, a run feast could well be on the cards. Vidarbha have been led by skipper Faiz Fazal (843 runs) this season, and his opening partner Sanjay Ramaswamy (735 runs) has made the skipper's job easier at the top.
While the openers have been prolific at the top of the order, the middle order has been anchored by seasoned stars Ganesh Satish (626 runs) and ex-Indian opener Wasim Jaffer (500), who has also mentored the team in their path to the finals.
Delhi, on the other hand, spearheaded by experienced left-hander Gautam Gambhir (632 runs) and Nitish Rana (528 runs), will face a gigantic threat in the form of Gurbani. Rajneesh leads the bowlers' charts for Vidarbha and will be a force to reckon with in the final. It remains to be seen how Gambhir and co. deal with the young quick.
For Delhi, left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra has bowled with impeccable accuracy and will be a vital cog on a flat Indore pitch. Vidarbha's spin-twins Akshay Wakhare and Aditya Sarwate's proficiency with the old ball could also have a major say in the outcome of the encounter.
Delhi's only concern will be the form of their skipper Rishabh Pant, who has not enjoyed a great run this season with only 262 runs from seven innings. Taking an aggressive approach to his batting, the youngster has notched only one fifty in seven innings.
Come December 29th, the teams will gear up to bring out their A-game in a bid to kick-start the new year with a title victory.