Till the start of the last season, Rajasthan were only underdogs. But suddenly the underdogs transformed themselves into a dangerous unit, is capable of springing any surprise. Last year, the defending Ranji Trophy champions beat Mumbai at home (Jaipur) in a comprehensive fashion which saw many heads roll in Mumbai ranks.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar of Rajasthan plays a shot during the Ranji Trophy
match against Mumbai at the Brabourne Stadium yesterday. Pic/Suresh
This year Mumbai had a chance get back at them at a supposedly alien venue for many of the Rajasthan youngsters, but thanks to captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Rajasthan were in full command after Day 1 of the Ranji Trophy Group A match. The visitors were 309-4 with Kanitkar going strong on 129 at stumps.
Kanitkar's leading from the front and Aakash Chopra and Reshmi Ranjan Parida's timely contributions have helped Rajasthan earn respect all over. Now, motivated by the seasoned campaigners, the young guns like Vineet Saxena, Ashok Meneria, Pankaj Singh, Deepak Chahar and Vivek Yadav have been coming to the party too on several occasions.
"Actually, we have a good mix of youth and experience and everyone is motivated by others' performance. And the fact that we never chopped and changed our team and stuck to only 16 players throughout the last season has helped a lot," Kanitkar told MiD DAY.
Though Chopra (19) didn't last long, it was Saxena (53) and Menaria (32) who had useful partnerships with their captain. Parida (67) was dismissed at a time when he just started milking the toothless Mumbai attack and had added 137 for the fourth wicket. "Parida is a touch player and it was very unfortunate that he got out on the last ball of the day," Kanitkar said.
Nearing 10,000 runs in the first-class format, Kanitkar would now be happy if his crucial 31st first-class ton earns his side a victory. "It's a good wicket to bat on and so I haven't set any target as such. I will try and stay there as long as possible. This is one of my better knocks and hope it comes in a winning cause," Kanitkar said.