'Kapil Dev truly deserved it,' Dilip Vengsarkar recalls Haryana's famous 1990-91 Ranji Trophy victory
- Dilip Vengsarkar was effusive in praise for Kapil Dev's pivotal performance in Haryana's historic 1990-91 Ranji triumph.
- Dilip Vengsarkar produced a fighting century in Bombay's chase but in vain as Haryana clinched a two-run win.
May 7, 1991, is regarded as one of the most iconic dates in Indian domestic cricket history, for that was the day when Kapil Dev's Haryana overcome a gritty effort from Dilip Vengsarkar to clinch their first-ever Ranji Trophy title, one that came against a star-studded Bombay side.
Bombay, the hosts of the summit clash were coming into the match with an aim to arrest their drought of winning the Ranji Trophy title, having won their last Championship back in the 1984-85 season.
For Kapil Dev and Haryana though, this was a chance to etch their names in the history books with an impactful performance. Haryana started the game on a bright note, putting up 522 on the board courtesy of a 199 from Deepak Sharma and half-centuries from Ajay Jadeja (94) and Chetan Sharma (98).
In reply, Bombay made 410 on the back of fine half-centuries from Lalchand Rajput (74) and Sanjay Patil (85) but more importantly, Haryana managed to elicit an imperative 112-run lead that gave them an upper hand in the match.
The visitors then rode on a half-century from Ajay Banerjee (60*) and starts from Dhanraj Singh and Kapil Dev to put up 242 on the board, setting a target of 355 to get from 68 overs for the hosts.
On Day 5 of the match, May 7th, 1991, Bombay found themselves in trouble at 34-3 at lunch with veteran Dilip Vengsarkar and prodigious youngster, Sachin Tendulkar handed over the onus to get their side to safety.
Post lunch, Tendulkar made the likes of Chetan Sharma and Dev look like school kids bowling to a seasoned player as he took the attack to the Haryana bowlers and smashed his way to a 75-ball 96, playing a dominant part in his partnership with Dilip Vengsarkar.
However, soon he was removed by Yogendra Bhandari, and despite a fine 45-run contribution from southpaw Vinod Kambli, the dismissal of the left-hander meant that all the pressure was on Dilip Vengsarkar to wade his team out of muddled waters.
An approach to finish off the game quickly saw wicketkeeper-batsman Chandrakant Pandit lose his wicket and soon, the tail was exposed. The next three wickets fell within the space of 29 runs, and with Bombay needing 50 more runs to win, Dilip Vengsarkar faced the arduous task of needing to score the remaining runs alongside last man in, debutant Abey Kuruvilla.
Dilip Vengsarkar smashes 26 runs in one over
And, when Dilip Vengsarkar smashed three sixes and two fours from a single Bhandari over, tension was arguably written all over the faces of the Haryana players. However, Vengsarkar was cramping up from before and had Rajput come in as his runner, but eventually, a misunderstanding between the opener and Kuruvilla saw Bombay fall agonisingly short of the target.
With Bombay requiring just three runs to win from a little more than two overs, a mix-up between Kuruvilla and Rajput saw both the batsmen stranded in the middle. The diving effort from Haryana's Amarjit Kaypee was followed up by a wayward throw, but in the end, Haryana's wicketkeeper Vijay Yadav did well to gather the ball and throw down the stumps.
Witnessing all of this unfold while standing right next to the square-leg umpire, Dilip Vengsarkar was visibly distraught and sunk down to the ground. His 137-ball 139* knock had almost brought about Bombay's 31st Ranji Trophy title, but in the end, all the dreams came crashing down.
29 years since the historic win for Haryana, Dilip Vengsarkar, in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda shared his thoughts on the tight encounter.
"I think this was one of the greatest matches I have played in. I have played in many, this was by far the best I have played in, it was very closely fought. It went for all five days and went to the very end. Nobody knew who would win, so that was very special," Dilip Vengsarkar said.
Dev has earlier been quoted as saying that this Ranji final is the third best match he has played, after the 1983 World Cup final and the tied Test match against Australia in 1986.
Dilip Vengsarkar spoke about how the Haryana skipper deservingly was the winning captain in that historic final, and was also effusive in praise for the former Indian captain, Dev.
"Kapil was extremely happy because they won for the first time and that was a great achievement by the team, he was the captain and he played a stellar role in the victory. It was fantastic for him, he's one of the greatest cricketers I have seen and he truly deserved it," Vengsarkar added.