Jharkhand is enjoying an absolutely fabulous time in the Ranji Trophy this time around. Having made its debut in 2004-05, the side has already ensured that it will enjoy its best season ever in India’s premier domestic competition after qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time ever after dismantling Haryana in the quarter-finals.
The side boasts of a mix of experience and youth and are well placed to qualify for their first final as they take on Gujarat on the 1st of January, 2017.
Having lost the quarter-finals last year, the side were determined to go one step further and thus roped in their most successful cricketer of all time, MS Dhoni, to serve as the mentor to the team. According to star performers Ishan Kishan and Shahbaz Nadeem, the 35-year-old has played an instrumental role in the side’s success this year.
Shahbaz Nadeem is having a great year as the leading wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy with 50 wickets to his name. Speaking about Dhoni’s contribution, he said, “It always helps when you have someone like Dhoni bhai to help you. There is no questioning his tactical acumen and I still remember that going into the game against Maharashtra, the wicket wore a slightly greener look. So Dhoni bhai came up to me and said that I should initially look to restrict the batsmen and use variations only after I have tied them down. The move worked wonders and here I am leading the wicket-takers’ tally”
Nadeem was the leading wicket-taker in the previous edition of the Ranji Trophy as well but recently admitted to being frustrated as he waits for a call-up to the national squad.
While Nadeem waits for his chance, 18-year-old Ishan Kishan is making waves with his aggressive stroke making in this year's tournament. Dhoni, obviously, helped him too. “Dhoni bhai saw me at the nets and walked up to me and said that I needed to curtail my attacking instincts to begin with. He believed that to play a long innings I needed to be a little more compact and I did just that. He asked me to change my stance as well and when it comes from someone like Dhoni bhai, you know you can trust his observation.
I got time to rework my stance and train with my new stance during the camp ahead of the season and I realised that I was feeling a lot better at the crease. I have maintained that stance since and I have seen that it has enhanced my batting,” he said about Dhoni.
Ishan Kishan, who dons the wicket-keeping gloves as well has impressed everybody, especially with his knocks of 159*, 273 and 136 this season. He smashed a quickfire 86 against Haryana in the quarters to deflate them as well.
He believes that Dhoni laid a lot of focus on fitness, and that gives the side a crucial edge. "Dhoni bhai puts a lot of emphasis on fitness. As we all know, he loves to stay at the top of his fitness level. And this time, he ensured that we also worked on our fitness at the start of the season. It was obviously something that wasn’t too common with the domestic teams, but the experience was out of the world.
To be honest, we have played nine games so far, but we still feel like the season has just started. To be mentally fresh going into the business end of the tournament is very important and we have managed to do that thanks to Dhoni bhai’s efforts,” he added.
It is clear that Dhoni's contribution to the side is immense and he will be hoping that his side can win their first Ranji Trophy title in 2017.
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