Madhya Pradesh, who has not been considered one of the cricketing elites for the past decade, on Sunday humiliated domestic powerhouse Mumbai by six wickets in a one-sided Ranji Trophy final under coach Chandrakant Pandit, who 23 summers ago exorcised the ghosts of losing a on this ground.
On the final day, Mumbai could only get 269 in their second innings, leaving MP a paltry goal of 108, and they did it in style as Pandit won a record sixth national title as coach.
Sarfaraz Khan (45), who finished the season with 18 under 1000 runs and the young Suved Parkar (51) tried their part, but with the need to attack at every opportunity, MPs Kumar Kartikeya (4/98) managed and the other bowlers that wickets would come their way.
There were some hiccups during the chase but with just over 100 to get it was a walk in the park for the MP team.
When they took the win, Pandit was inundated with memories (not a happy one), which he hasn’t been able to erase for over two decades and despite winning five trophies as a coach.
It was here at Chinnaswamy Stadium in the summer of 1999 when MP, despite leading 75 in the first innings, failed to win the game as Pandit, a proud captain, ended his playing career in tears. Before the finale, he spoke to PTI about divine intervention and circle of life and for the five days he sat in a corner with a white towel on his lap.
He has again proven to be an ‘alchemist’, having led Vidarbha to four trophies (consecutive Ranji and Irani Cup), with a team that lacked superstars.
The Yash Dubeys, Himanshu Mantris, Subham Sharmas, Gourav Yadavs or Saransh Jains are not players that would make you feel like they are India prospects, with the classy Rajat Patidar being the exception. But they gave enough indication that they are not willing to give in even a micro millimeter without a good scrap.
They taught the Mumbai men a lesson in perfect execution of tactics with dollops of ‘Khadoos’ cricket, which many believed to be a patent of the 41-time champions. MP’s win proved once again that the Ranji trophy is often won by sides that don’t have too many superstars or India prospects with ambition or resources to play top-notch cricket.
It happened to Rajasthan when they had Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Akash Chopra during their triumph while Vidarbha had Wasim Jaffer and Ganesh Sathish accompany a bunch of youngsters.
In MP, there was no Avesh Khan or Venkatesh Iyer and only had an emerging potential star in Patidar but they followed Pandit’s ‘Gurukul’ style of ‘My Way of HighWay’ coaching philosophy to come out triumphant.
Since 2010, barring the dominance of Karnataka for a few seasons and Mumbai winning it once, the Ranji Trophy has been won by teams such as Rajasthan (twice), Vidarbha (twice), Saurashtra (once) and Madhya Pradesh, who never quarreled in Past.
This shows that cricket has moved from the Shivaji Park, Azad Maidan or Cross Maidan in Mumbai, from the National Stadium in Delhi or the state-of-the-art camps in Bengaluru or Kolkata, to the hinterland.
Yash Dubey of Bhopal, who had problems with his eyesight during his teenage years or Kumar Kartikeya of Sultanpur, who had not gone home for nine years, or Gourav Yadav of Hoshangabad, who would beat Prithvi Shaw’s bat many times for fun , are men, they have not had it easy.
When the Ranji Trophy started, Madhya Pradesh’s cricket team had not even been formed and it was then known as Holkar, a British-era princely state, which produced the best cricketers in the country – the charismatic Mushtaq Ali – or the very first captain ever of the Indian cricket team – the great CK Nayudu.
Holkar was a formidable team until the 1950s before it was renamed Madhya Bharat and then Madhya Pradesh.
MP has produced some good cricketers over the years – spinners Narendra Hirwani and Rajesh Chauhan – who had short but eventful international careers.
Amay Khurasiya, who had finished his cricket several years before the IPL where he would have been a resounding success. And then there was the peerless Devendra Bundela, who was one of those hapless middle-class batters who played in the 1990s and 2000s when Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were in their glory.
But as a Ranji team, it never looked menacing, save for the occasional final they played 23 summers back under Pandit’s captaincy. However, this was a team that was confident enough and ready to rise above its weight. They did it confidently for five days. The Ranji Trophy deserves to be in the MPCA cabinet in the coming year.