Saurashtra team enters Vijay Hazare trophy knock-out stage in style.

There was a very high level of expectations of this Saurashtra senior team when they departed for participating in Vijay Hazare Trophy (Group- D) at Hyderabad. And rightly so, because it was a star studded team. The all four India stars i.e. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Robin Uthappa and Jaydev Unadkat were available for this tournament.

The team Saurashtra started off really well in this tournament by winning against Chattisgarh by 32 runs. However the team had to deal with couple of bad news immediately after this game, the centurion of this game Sheldon Jackson and the captain Jaydev Shah got injured and were declared out of the tournament. Harvik Desai, the India U-19 star was supposed to join the team after first game but as soon as he reached Hyderabad, he too got sick and had to be hospitalized. So virtually, 3  players were out of the team with five games to play in the tournament.

As we say “when things fall, it always fall big”, Saurashtra in the next game shockingly lost to Jammu and Kashmir after posting a decent total of 267. The worse was still to come, in the following game against Hyderabad Saurashtra suffered another loss after putting 277 runs on the board. The team was missing its injured players and the big four so far could not contribute to the team’s success. People started believing that Saurashtra will be the first team to be out of the contention for Knock out stages. But the team was not disheartened at all; in fact it was more so determined to bounce back. The team had the optimistic Captain, hard working Coach and reliable players who were keen to prove a point or two at this stage. But for that, the team had to win every game from here to remain in hunt for the knock out spot.

The fourth game was against Jharkhand. And Jharkhand scored a mammoth 332 in 50 overs against Saurashtra. To add to the misery for the team Ravindra Jadeja also got hurt in this game. But as we know how great a champion he is!, He played an instrumental role in chasing down that huge score by putting a remarkable century against his name, and team won the game with 10 balls to spare.

The spirit of the team was scaling high and was back in the game. Against Services in the next game Saurashtra stamped its authority and won the game quite convincingly. Samarth Vyas hammered 114 in just 66 balls to ensure that the team not only won the game but the net run rate was improved big time. The last of league game was against Vidarbha, the Ranji trophy champions and Group- D table topper in this tournament. But the team Saurashtra exhibited a clinical show again and won the game quite convincingly. Avi Barot remained not out on 91 and skipper Cheteshwar remained not out on 46. Saurashtra won the match by 8 wickets and also chased the target in 34 overs only, where target to qualify was to reach the target of 160 runs in about 41 overs.  With this huge win the Team Saurastra made it to the knock out stage of this tournament which is to be played in Delhi from 21st of this month.

Apart from the above, Arpit Vasavada, Prerak Mankad, Cheteshwar Pujara, Chirag Jani excelled with the bat while Dharmendra Jadeja, Shaurya Sanandia, Jaydev Unadkat and Kamlesh Makwana bowled magnificently to make this journey successful.

Cricket is a funny game and one should not write off any team which has players like the ones Saurashtra has. The amazing thing about this tournament is the way each and every player of the team has stepped up and accepted the responsibility after losing out on some key players due to injuries. Skipper Pujara and Coach Kotak should be proud men. This team has provided us with the joy & happiness to witness some superlative performances and let’s hope the team continues the stupendous show at the knock out stage to bring back the Vijay Hazare trophy to the place where it belong the most under the circumstances.  Well done boys, Best wishes for the knock outs...

-By Prakash Bhatt

(Prominent Player and Former Captain of Saurashtra Ranji Trophy Team)