As someone who has represented Maharashtra and Karnataka (apart from Mumbai), I found myself on a sticky wicket as it were when it came to predicting the winner of the Ranji Trophy final. After giving it some more thought, I discovered Karnataka flowing from my mind and heart.
In the end, it was an awesome victory for Karnataka which proves that sticking to the same set of players, youngsters in this case, pays off. Karnataka's Ranji Trophy triumph was an out and out collective effort. All their players are up-and-coming and have what it to takes to prosper on the bigger stage.
Batsmen like Lokesh Rahul and Ganesh Satish have been exposed to high pressure games early on in their career and this can only help. While Rahul's temperament is to be admired, another player who I think is destined for big things is wicketkeeper-batsman Chidhambaram Gautam. Both these men can play for India in the future.
Spinner Amit Verma and batsman Ganesh Satish are players to watch out for. And Stuart Binny is someone who I think is India's answer in the hunt for an all-rounder. I've seen him develop and he has it in him to be a great player.
Champions: Ranji Trophy 2013-14 champions Karnataka with the trophy after defeating Maharashtra in the final at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, Hyderabad yesterday. Standing (from left): Ganesh Satish, R Samarth, Abrar Kazi, Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Agarwal, HS Sharath, Karun Nair, KL Rahul, Ronit More, Amit Verma, Kunal Kapoor, KP Appanna. Sitting (from left): Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, CM Gautam, R Vinay Kumar (captain), Manish Pandey, S Arvind, Robin Uthappa
Hats off to Maharashtra for reaching this far and it has been a great run. The difference was that Karnataka had players stepped up and performed when needed. I am referring to India paceman Vinay Kumar and opening batsman Robin Uthappa, who gave their team a huge psychological advantage.
Even though Maharashtra boasted of some good batsmen like Vijay Zol, Sangam Atitkar, Kedar Jadhav and Ankit Bawne, they lacked the kind of X factor which Vinay and Uthappa provided for Karnataka. Batting coach J Arunkumar (nicknamed JAK) and bowling expert Mansur Ali Khan (nicknamed MAK) have been invaluable for Karnataka. Having been part of the Ranji-winning team in 1998-99, they know what it takes to win the championship.
JAK & MAK factor
JAK's positive attitude would have definitely rubbed off on the team. Mansur is an ideal example of looking for local talent and nurturing them. But the win was achieved through a combination of talent and camaraderie in the team.
Well done, hubby! Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar with wife Richa in Hyderabad after winning the Ranji Trophy yesterday
I am forced to think about the 1998-99 triumph which I was involved in. The teams we played then were much superior. I'm not saying that the teams that this Karnataka side came up against were not great and that they had an easy passage to the final.
But we played against teams like Hyderabad with VVS Laxman and Mohammed Azharuddin in great nick then. VVS was in prime form and Azharuddin had all that experience to boost his team. The Madhya Pradesh side which we beat in the final was a highly experienced outfit. But, on the other hand, the current Karnataka lot is more talented than we were. This group has six to seven players who can go on to play for India.
Neutral venue issue
It was ridiculous to host the final at a neutral venue where players paraded their skills in front of empty
stands. Matches like these should be played at the home of one of the teams. You can understand that this strategy is employed in the IPL that has a heavy entertainment factor but this is the Ranji Trophy.
I'm sure BCCI will look into it and have a rotation policy for the final based on the teams involved. Kudos to both teams for getting to the final! Hope the selectors take notice of the talent on the domestic circuit – in first-class cricket and Ranji Trophy and not just the IPL while picking the national team.
* Anand Yalvigi was a member of the 1998-99 Karnataka Ranji Trophy-winning team