Delhi stand in way as Vidarbha chase maiden Ranji glory
By Abhishek Hore
Indore, Dec 28 (PTI) A win away from their maiden title, Vidarbha embodied the allure often associated with underdogs as they braced up to face a battle-hardened Delhi that has for years braved a system that is anything but robust, in the final of Ranji Trophy.
Since reaching their maiden semifinal of the country's premier domestic tournament, Vidarbha's story has been about getting familiarised with unchartered territories, and now they are up against a team that is also seeking happy endings for years.
If Vidarbha's dream run ends in a heartbreak at the Holkar Stadium, it would pave the way for Delhi's eighth triumph -- the last coming almost a decade back.
Some turnaround it has been after the off-field controversies that dogged the team last season, with much publicised altercation between then skipper Gautam Gambhir and coach KP Bhaskar.
A team that has produced some of the finest players in recent years and looks set to supply a player or two more to the Indian cricket team in near future, Delhi certainly look like the fancied of the two finalists.
However, given Vidarbha's spirited run to their maiden title clash, Delhi are well aware of the threat the first- timers could pose over the next few days.
Not one to take anything for granted, Delhi skipper Rishabh Pant said on the eve of the match,"We are just focused on the job at hand. We know we will have to play really well to win the match."
Medium pacer Rajneesh Gurbani has become the toast of the domestic scene since he ran through season favourites Karnataka's a star-studded batting line-up in the semifinal in Kolkata.
In Delhi, Gurbani and his team-mates have another difficult challenge facing them.
With the seasoned Gambhir at the top of the order, Delhi know they have a player who can be relied on in times of crisis.
If the out-of-favour India opener is able to add to the three centuries and two fifties in the final, Delhi would be too happy to lap it all.
From scoring a crucial 95 in the fourth-innings quarterfinal chase against Madhya Pradesh to the century versus Bengal in the last-four stage, Gambhir has had a decisive role in the team's progress to the final, and a substantial outing here would be befitting.
Gambhir's much-younger opening partner, Kunal Chandela, too is coming off a century in the semi-final, and Delhi are fortunate to enter the season's biggest game with their openers in top form.
Nitish Rana has scored a lot of runs batting in the middle-order.
The seven-time winners have a young captain in Pant and though he has had a quiet season, the wicketkeeper would certainly look to impress the national selectors present there, with handsome contributions.
Navdeep Saini, the 25-year-old pacer, has been a consistent wicket-taker for Delhi this season. His seven- wicket match haul against Bengal in the semifinal contributed to his teams innings win.
The bowler from Karnal, whose rise has been documented over the past few days, meant business in the group stages too, picking up wickets against Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
Saini's pace bowling colleague, Kulwant Khejroliya too took four wickets against Bengal, as the duo bundled out their opponents for a paltry 86 in the second innings.
Left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra has been the leading wicket-taker for Delhi this season, and has shone through the league, snaring a bag full of wickets against Madhya Pradesh, Hyderabad, Maharashtra and Railways. He has been accompanied by another left-arm spinner, Manan Sharma.
As far as Vidarbha are concerned, their charge has been led by the experienced Faiz Fazal (843 runs at an average of 76.63) and his opening partner, Sanjay Ramaswamy (735 runs at an average 66.81).
Last but not the least are veteran Wasim Jaffer and coach Chandrakant Pandit, who have won multiple titles with Mumbai. The duo have been inspiration for the Vidarbha youngsters as they know the recipe for winning India's blue riband trophy.
Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (captain), Sanjay Ramaswamy, Wasim Jaffer, Ganesh Sathish, Apoorv Wankhede, Vinod Wadkar (wk), Aditya Sarwate, Akshay Wakhare, SiddeshNeral, Rajneesh Gurbani, Karn Sharma, Shalabh Srivastava, Siddhesh Wath (wk), Akshay Karnewar, Suniket Bingewar, Ravikumar Thakur, Aditya Thakare
Delhi: Rishabh Pant (captain and wk), Gautam Gambhir, Kunal Chandela, Dhruv Shorey, Nitish Rana, Himmat Singh, Manan Sharma, Vikas Mishra, Vikas Tokas, Navdeep Saini, Kulwant Khejroliya, Akash Sudan, Shivam Sharma, Unmukt Chand, Milind Kumar