Cricket is a game of chance but in Ranji Trophy cricket, it’s a game of first innings lead. Saurashtra won the first even Ranji Trophy title at Rajkot beating Bengal. So, aside from the Western Region annexed the trophy. However, Mumbai, the headquarters of Indian cricket could not achieve any headway in the championship.
Saurashtra skipper Unadkat springs into action to put the skids on Bengal’s chase on the fifth and final day. His left arm medium-pace bowling was a revelation in this Ranji Trophy Championships. A magniﬁcent tale of grind and toil came to a halt as Saurashtra, led by an inspiring Jaydev Unadkat, stopped Bengal on the ﬁfth and ﬁnal day to win its first title. Unadkat not only delivered the final blow but also claimed 63 wickets at an average of 13.23 per wicket. But that was not the best this season. Bihar slow left-arm orthodox bowler Ashutosh Aman took 68 wickets in the 2018-19 season.
Saurashtra’s success story is phenomenal. They achieved this against all odds. At the same time the winning team was showing early promise in Ranji Trophy in different names. Nawanagar (HQ Jamnagar) appeared in Ranji Trophy from 1936/37 to 1947/48 (won title on debut in 1936/37 when they beat Bengal in final). Western India States Agency (HQ Rajkot) appeared in Ranji Trophy from 1934/35 to 1945/46 (won title in 1943/44 when they beat Bengal in final). Kathiawar appeared in Ranji Trophy from 1946/47 to 1949/50.
All three above sides merged to become Saurashtra from 1950/51 to date (won title in 2019/20 when they beat Bengal on first innings lead. Incidentally, Saurashtra won their maiden national title – the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2007-08, they again beat BENGAL in the final. So for Saurashtra, Bengal is the soft target to win titles.
Corona virus caused ripples as the last days play was played with gates closed for the public. More over, C Shamshuddin, one of the field umpires was on ruled out as the on-field umpire for the remainder of the Ranji Trophy final after getting hit around the lower abdomen area on the opening day of the title clash between Bengal and Saurashtra. Substitution was done from day two of the match.
After falling to Mumbai in 2012-13 and 2015-16, and to Vidarbha in 2018-19, Saurashtra beat Bengal on first-innings lead in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final to become the newest team to win Indian cricket’s premier domestic competition. Since their first campaign in the Ranji Trophy in 1950-51, Saurashtra, in the process, become the third Gujarat-based team to triumph in the competition, the others being Gujarat and Baroda. Saurashtra are the third team from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat to win the Ranji Trophy, following the title runs of Nawanagar in 1936-37 and Western India in 1943-44.
After losing just once (against Uttar Pradesh) in a group containing Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mumbai, Railways, Baroda, and Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra finished fourth in the combined Group A and B table to qualify. So after a long gap the Ranji Trophy had gone to the place where it actually belongs to.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)