After three failed attempts, Saurashtra made it count in their fourth time of asking as they were crowned Ranji Trophy champions for the 2019/20 season. More importantly, it was an all-round team effort that brought about their maiden and historic title triumph.
In the summit clash against Bengal, a 142-run partnership between centurion Arpit Vasavada (106) and Cheteshwar Pujara (66) took Saurashtra to 425, but more importantly, the home side had batted out two whole days and half a session of play.
Despite fifites from the trio of Sudip Chatterjee, Wriddhiman Saha and Anustup Majumdar, Bengal folded for 381 and handed a 44-run lead to the hosts. Eventually, the first-innings lead proved decisive as Saurashtra batted out the remaining overs in the game and lifted the trophy.
A cornerstone of Saurashtra's success was the guidance of former Indian national team cricketer Karsan Ghavri. Having played 39 test matches and 19 ODI's between 1974 to 1981, the Rajkot born left hander was one of the country's first utility players, consistently contributing both with bat and ball in pressure situations.
Apart from international success, Ghavri bought in over 15 years of Ranji Trophy experience, plying his trade for both Saurashtra and Mumbai. This knowledge was integral in the team's success over the past 12 months.
Also see – IPL winners
Not just a coach, but a motivator
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Ghavri opened up about his approach to player management and the impact of Jaydev Unadkat's leadership on the team. He said,
“We had a good leader in skipper (Jaydev) Unadkat. He bowled well right through the season – in different conditions. I am sure that he will get to play Test cricket soon. He should be one of the pacers being considered by the selectors,”
Apart from advocating Unadkat's senior Indian team selection, the 69-year old also heaped praise on Pujara and the rest of his side's resillience in relatively unchartered territory.
“Cheteshwar (Pujara) was a pillar of our batting. (Sheldon) Jackson, Chirag (Jani), (Dharmendrasinh) Jadeja and others too contributed well for the team’s cause,” he added.
For Saurashtra, a team which had come so near and yet missed out on a title previously, it's only fair that Ghavri was in some form, a guiding light to the side. However, the head coach downplayed the claim, and affirmed that he was happy to do his job.
“I am not a lucky mascot as such. My job was to motivate the team and give them confidence that they can get the job done. I was more like a father figure and am grateful to the players who have responded well. They truly deserve to win the championship this season," he said.
Recently, Ghavri also came to the fore for helping the Saurashtra players at a micro level. For instance, he assisted Harvik Desai to overcome certain personal hurdles during the season.
“If there was someone who was struggling, it was important to sit down with them and have a conversation about their problem. Our opener (Harvik) Desai had a couple of problems but talking to him helped resolve them,” he said.
“Conversation is the key to success. It is important to speak and understand what the players are saying. The other thing is never to abuse a player in front of his teammates. One should talk to him in private and understand the issue,” he added.
When probed about his role as the team's coach, Ghavri stated that the players were all experienced and his focus was only on the youngsters in the training sessions.
“There is no need to coach Ranji Trophy players as such unless some new player joins the team. For example a young fast bowler is making some mistakes then it is important to make the necessary corrections at the nets," he added.
Ghavri, who was offered the role by Saurashtra Cricket Association after long time coach Sitanshu Kotak took up the vacant India A spot, also lauded his wards' attitude of standing up to challenges and taking them head on during the matches.
Next chapter for Saurashtra cricket
“Nothing during the match. Our job during the matches is to motivate the players and guide them wherever and whenever necessary. It’s important to keep their confidence levels high, strategize different scenarios and support the players. The players know their roles very well and in most cases all the players responded to the challenges well,” he said.
When asked if he will continue to coach the team, Ghavri claimed that he would love to train youngsters and unearth potential talent for the region.However, his time as Head Coach has come to an end, which he has already informed to the SCA.
“I cannot continue for five to six months. I think it’s time to find a new coach. I am willing to work as a mentor with all teams in the state – U-16, 19 & senior teams. I would be more eager to be part of the talent scouting team to pick up promising youngsters,” he mentioned.
As a final note, Ghavri said that Saurashtra's victory was not a one off and they will be a force to be reckoned with over the next few seasons. He added, "Saurashtra, with the kind of players they have, will continue to do well in the coming few seasons. I am sure that teams like Karnataka, Gujarat etc will be keen to catch up and do well.”