Having qualified for the quarterfinals of Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season, Vidarbha has proved that their last year’s triumph wasn’t a fluke by any means.
Vidarbha topped the combined points table (Elite Groups ‘A’ and ‘B’) and hasn’t been defeated in a single contest thus far. The defending champions has also been exceptionally led by Faiz Fazal, who has three centuries in the tournament.
Ahead of the quarterfinal against Uttarakhand beginning on Tuesday, Fazal, in an exclusive interview with Sportstar, admits that his team has peaked at the right time after a difficult start.
“There is a healthy pressure and we are enjoying it. If you perform well and make a mark in the domestic circuit, people will be talking about you and there will be pressure of expectations and we are lucky to have that pressure, to be honest. It is also a known factor that being the defending champion, the expectations will be high. But we are keeping things simple. We have been playing very good cricket this season, so we are confident,” Fazal quoted.
“I agree that we did not have a very good start to the season, and there were chances of facing outright defeats. But we bounced back and saved the games. So, that shows our character as a team. We played positive cricket, despite conceding first-innings lead. I am happy that we peaked at the right time and now everyone is in very good shape,” he added.
When asked how he keeps his players motivated, the Vidarbha skipper said: “We handled things very smartly. We had a few meetings, and we discussed why we were not being consistent. If our batting would click in one innings, the bowling wouldn’t. And it was vice versa. We were not being able to tick all the boxes and we had to rectify the problems quickly.”
“Fortunately, we could rectify the errors and then we bounced back against Baroda and took the first-innings lead. Then, we won back-to-back matches against Chhattisgarh and Railways. Suddenly, we were back in the race. [Later], we got a bonus point against Mumbai, and that was a big thing. Despite going through rough times, we did not allow negativity to creep in,” he explained.
While the other teams play stronger opponents in the quarterfinals, Vidarbha will take on Uttarakhand, which topped the Plate group.
On being asked if they have a rather easy opposition to face in such a crucial match, Fazal said: “Comparatively, yes. You have to accept that the other teams are very established in the domestic circuit. Uttarakhand is a new team and has some experienced players. It will be comparatively an easy game but we don’t want to take them lightly. It’s after all a knockout game. We don’t look at the opponents now; [instead, we] focus on our game and aim to raise the bar.”
He concluded by talking about the takeaways from the season so far.
“Youngsters like Mohit Kale, Akshay Wadkar, [and] Aditya Sarwate have done well, and senior pros like Wasim [Jaffer] bhai have got three hundreds, so have I. So, we have been able to maintain the balance. The only concern is our fielding. It was a similar issue last year as well. We cannot afford to miss important catches and that is something we need to focus on,” Faiz Fazal concluded.