Ranji Trophy: Baroda skipper Solanki shows his fight against Mumbai | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Ranji Trophy: Baroda skipper Solanki shows his fight against Mumbai

Feb 25, 2024 10:30 PM IST

The domestic stalwart top-scored with 136, and with fellow centurion Shashwat Rawat let Mumbai take only a 36-run first innings lead on Day 3 of the quarters

At 31, it is doubtful Vishnu Solanki’s cricket career will go further than domestic cricket, but when it comes to steely temperament he is up there with the best in Indian cricket. His numbers -- 2541 runs in 40 matches (before this Ranji Trophy quarterfinal) at an average of 39.70 -- don’t fully capture his qualities as a cricketer.

Baroda resumed their overnight score from 90/3. Well-settled batters, P Rana and Ansh Gosai, made a partnership of 154 and took the score to 197. (HT File)(HT_PRINT)
Baroda resumed their overnight score from 90/3. Well-settled batters, P Rana and Ansh Gosai, made a partnership of 154 and took the score to 197. (HT File)(HT_PRINT)

He commands tremendous respect in the cricket fraternity. There's a reason he is the Baroda captain. He has always put his team’s interest above everything with the rare ability to overcome grief and get the job done for Baroda.

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At the start of the 2022 season, affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, he faced twin tragedies within days. His father passed away days after he lost his newborn daughter. After attending his daughter’s funeral, Solanki was back in Cuttack for Baroda’s second-round Ranji Trophy game against Chandigarh. He braved his personal loss to come up with an important hundred in his team’s cause.

Tragedy struck again when on the final day of the match, he received news of his father's death. He watched the funeral on video call while the game was on.

His tough character has again been on display in the high-stakes Ranji quarter-final against Mumbai at the MCA Sharad Pawar Cricket Academy ground here. Facing Mumbai on their home turf is a formidable challenge, especially against their quality bowling attack this season. With Baroda facing the stiff challenge of replying to Mumbai's first innings 384, Solanki got together with Shashwat Rawat to put up an impressive fight. Left-handed Rawat smashed 124 off 194 balls (15 fours) and Solanki scored 136 off 291 balls (14 fours), helping Baroda to reach 348 all out. With Mumbai's lead only 36 runs, it has ensured there's everything to play for in the second innings with two days left in the five-day match.

Showing great focus, Solanki looked determined to help Baroda take the lead. When Baroda touched 300/5, the first innings was evenly poised. But the support Solanki was hoping for from the lower order didn’t come as they lost their last seven wickets for 78 runs. After Rawat became the third wicket to fall on the total of 239, Solanki continued to fight until he was ninth out at 348.

The highlight of their 174-run partnership was how the pair dealt with the threat of Mumbai’s spin spearhead Shams Mulani. On a pitch where Baroda left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt took seven wickets, Rawat and Solanki denied Mumbai any success the entire morning session, taking the total to 233/2 at lunch with Rawat batting on 119 and Solanki on 74. The only chance came when Rawat tried to cut Musheer Khan but keeper Hardik Tamore failed to grab the difficult catch.

“I was backing myself and I knew when there is a big match, I will prove myself. It is a quarter-final, against Mumbai in Mumbai, so it (mindset) was about showing good application and win the match,” said Solanki.

It was pacer Tushar Deshpande who provided the big breakthroughs, dismissing both the centurions.

Mumbai stormed back after lunch. The spinners got into the act after Deshpande broke the big partnership by having Rawat caught at slip by Prithvi Shaw. Mulani was more effective with the second new ball and struck a double blow by inducing a false stroke from the in-form Shivalik Sharma and bowling Mithesh Patel next ball with a beauty which spun across the face of the bat. Mulani finished with four wickets.

For Solanki the season has been up and down with just two half-centuries. But he is known to reserve his best against Mumbai and did that again. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament, his 49 off 30 balls had helped knock out Mumbai in the quarter-final. In the 2021 Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament, he batted at No.3 and hit 94 in a total of 210 versus Mumbai.

The Baroda captain said they are still in the game. “We are slightly on the backfoot after conceding the lead, but we have two days to go."

Mumbai were 21/1 in the second innings after opener Bhupen Lalwani fell to Bhatt. Shaw didn't come out to open after hurting his nail while taking the sharp catch of Rawat in the slip.

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