Aakash Chopra isn't yet thinking of penning Rajasthan's journey to their second successive Ranji triumph. But if he or any other member of the team decides to write a memoir, it could well be named ‘Keeping it Simple’.
Unlike many of their opponents, Rajasthan never boasted of genuine match-winners and every member of the side insisted that retaining the crown was never on the top of their wish list at the start of the season.
In fact, coach, Amit Asawa’s, pre tournament talk focussed more on adding value to the individual players’ abilities rather than charting a plan for their title defence.It was this collective improvement that helped them tower for the second successive year. "The one sentence I would use (to describe the journey) is that we allowed players to make mistakes and learn from them," said skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
Mistakes they did commit in a heap at the start of the tournament. Rajasthan could not defend comfortable first innings totals and were staring down the barrel with five points from five encounters. “But we never felt the pressure as we weren't expecting to be in the final or win,” said Kanitkar.
“In all those matches, once we failed to take the first innings lead, we concentrated on not losing the game outright. Even against Saurashtra, we were thinking about three points and playing in the Elite again next season…. As things happened, we were in a good position, so we pressed on and won that match outright. But that wasn't the primary plan,” he added.
Rajasthan did not look back from there.
Unlike the last season, when the three professionals, Chopra, Kanitkar and Rashmi Ranjan Parida, had shouldered the responsibility, it was the local talent that stood out by trading flamboyance with effectiveness.
Vineet Saxena did not play a cut or pull for the first two days while scoring a double hundred in the final, while the season's highest run-getter Robin Bist curtailed his aggressive instincts for the team’s cause.
The approach did attract criticism but Kanitkar defended the team. “The pitch you play on decides what kind of cricket you are going to get… You can't think of being attractive but how to be effective in order to win. We were not looking to play to the gallery,” he said.