Glory for Rajasthan after 77 years of hardwork | india | Hindustan Times
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Glory for Rajasthan after 77 years of hardwork

india Updated: Jan 16, 2011 01:08 IST
Amol Karhadkar

Once the Rajasthan tail saw through the first session on the last day of their Ranji Trophy final against Baroda, extending their lead to 325 with one wicket remaining, the rest of the day's play till the beginning of the mandatory overs was just a formality.

No wonder then that frantic celebrations had already begun. Families of most of the players and officials of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) then started planning grand celebrations at night and on the team's return.

It was all justified. After all, it took one of the first monarchies to patrnosie the game in India 77 years to win the premier domestic championship for the first time.

The victory was an amazing tale of turning the tide. A year ago, the RCA was in the news for all the wrong reasons. The groups of Lalit Modi and CP Joshi were involved in a brawl over controlling the association and the senior team finished at the bottom of the Plate League, the lower rung of Ranji Trophy.

From there to topping the Plate this season and qualifying for the Super League was a deed in itself. But it turned out to be the beginning of a glorious journey through adversities. Knocking down Mumbai and Tamil Nadu in the quarter-final and semi-final, and then this victory in the final on first-innings lead, on a lesser scale, it was as astonishing as India's World Cup triumph in 1983.

What led to the dramatic turnaround? For starters, the RCA roped in three experienced batsmen as professionals - Hrishikesh Kanitkar (Maharashtra), Aakash Chopra (Delhi) and Rashmi Ranjan Parida (Orissa) - to help new coach Amit Asawa and his deputy Harish Joshi in nurturing local talent.

"We knew our batting was weak and to succeed, you need batsmen who could take the game out of the opposition's hands," Rajiv Seth, former Bengal and Rajasthan paceman who is now a selector, said. "We had to strengthen the batting by bringing in professionals. One of them had to be a proven leader. Naturally, it had to Hrishi (Kanitkar)."

Once the professionals started performing, they found support from local players Vineet Saxena, Robin Bist, Vaibhav Deshpande and young sensation Ashok Menaria. Pankaj Singh needed help and he couldn't have asked for anyone better than Deepak Chahar, with Sumit Mathur doing a tidy job throughout the season.

"When we beat Mumbai, we knew we could finally break the jinx and go all the way," coach Asawa said.

Even amid the wild celebrations, the RCA secretary Sanjay Dixit said the real challenge was to keep it going. "This has been a season of firsts for Rajasthan cricket," Dixit said.

"Besides the Ranji title, for the first time our U-16 team made it to the semi-finals. It means that the revamping of Rajasthan cricket is on its way. Probably the success has come sooner than expected. The challenge is to sustain it in the coming years."

Over to the next Ranji season.