A November day in 2010 could well have been the turning point for Rajasthan in their Ranji Trophy ambition. They had packed off Hyderabad for 21, the lowest score in the premier domestic tournament. On January 20 this year, they were well and truly on way to defending the title after piling a mammoth 621 against Tamil Nadu. Three days later, they had become the fifth team in the 78-year history of Ranji Trophy to win back-to-back titles.
Is there a method to their success? Yes. And, the best is yet to come. This will happen once the restructuring of the state tournaments and building of infrastructure is complete. A huge talent pool has been created by former RCA academy head coach Tarak Sinha, and if the administrators can nurture the talent, more titles will come our way.
Kanitkar braves it
Having Hrishikesh Kanitkar as skipper has helped. Not only does Rajasthan have a cool captain and a high-scoring batsman, being an outsider, he is also immune to the politics selectors play. In spite of the infighting in the association, it was Kanitkar's stature that prevented the selectors and others from meddling in the team selection. His presence imparted stability and his approach built the confidence of players.
The presence of professionals has changed the attitude of players. While they were content with mediocre performances for the better part of the last 50 years, they are now looking to excel in the company of these high achievers. At every level, players are putting in that extra effort. In state championships, batsmen are trying to convert centuries into double centuries, and bowlers are trying to take an extra wicket or two. Aakash (Chopra) has brought an entirely different approach to batting. That's why the Vineets and Robins, who were content with 400-500 runs, are now aiming for 900-1000.
Good sports administration is no rocket science. Trust, fairness and honest intention, coupled with an open mind for technology, is what it takes to foster a sporting culture. If you reward performance, players will perform. If you bring in sifarishis, the reverse happens. It is amazing how an undeserving player spoils the atmosphere of a dressing room.
These ideas have been implemented by the RCA in good measure over the past two-three years.
Of late, things have turned a bit ugly with local politics diluting the good work, but the beauty of positive ideas is that you cannot keep them down for long. They acquire a momentum of their own.
It also happened with this title-winning team. Last year's momentum ensured nobody dared to interfere. The team had the winning formula and simply replicated it with a bit of luck.
(The writer is secretary, Rajasthan Cricket Association)