Ahead of the team’s departure for Chennai, the Rajasthan Cricket Association held a function to wish them luck and celebrate their royal march to the Ranji final. Last season, in a sensational run, Rajasthan climbed from the Plate Division to win the championship, and a year later, have another shot at history. A second title will prove sneering sceptics wrong, who thought the triumph was a fluke, powered by imported professionals and that the side resembled a Rest of India squad.
But, regardless of such opinion, winning the title is a massive achievement and Rajasthan's run thus far is truly astonishing. Robin Bisht struck four hundreds to become this season's highest run-getter and Rajasthan's medium pacers knocked the opposition over even on flat, unresponsive tracks. In this demolition, veteran Pankaj Singh was supported by Sumit Mathur and Rituraj Singh, a fresh swing bowler.
Interestingly, this year's Ranji semifinals were won by pace bowlers. Haryana, a starless side, who conquered fancied Karnataka in the earlier round, lasted less than 100 overs in their two innings against Rajasthan. No less surprising was Mumbai's spineless surrender to Tamil Nadu.
The story of this season's Ranji is not just the surge of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, but also the steady decline of some top teams. Clearly, Karnataka are not the force they were, and without their main bowlers (A Mithun and Vinay Kumar) lacked inspiration.
Equally sad was Delhi's consistent underperformance, and their inability to make the business end of the championship. They lost a lot of players, away playing for India, but the available talent did little of note. Shikhar Dhawan and Pradeep Sangwan fell off the radar and the youngsters failed to step up.
Ranji Trophy now is more open and democratic — the era of superpowers is gone.
The writer is a cricket administrator involved with the IPL and his views are personal.