Jalaj Saxena, the veteran domestic player, has backed Vidarbha to win the Ranji Trophy title, as he has said if the team can play like this, then they can win the tournament for the first time,
“If they play like they have so far, Vidarbha can emerge best. They have an amazing combination of young and experienced players. Credit should go to coach Chandrakant Pandit for being able to bring out the best from both. That has been the key to Vidarbha’s success this season,” he told TOI.
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Vidarbha qualified for the final of the Ranji Trophy for the first time in the history. They defeated heavyweight Karnataka in the semifinal to march into the final. At one stage, it looked like Karnataka will face Delhi in the final but Rajneesh Gurbani’s seven-for in the fourth innings of the game led the team to a victory.
Umesh Yadav was also playing the game, but it was Gurbani who shone for his side. Vidarbha won the game by just a margin of five runs.
One of the major reasons, as Jalaj mentions, behind Vidarbha’s success is Chandrakant Pandit, Vidarbha’s coach. He was surprisingly removed as the Head Coach of Mumbai before the start of the season and got replaced by former India stumper, Sameer Dighe. Mumbai lost the quarterfinal game to Karnataka this season.
Pandit’s removal as a coach was a surprising one, as in his two years with Mumbai, the side won the Ranji Trophy title in 2015/16 while ended the tournament as runner-up in 2016/17.
This season, Mumbai’s loss was Vidarbha’s gain, and in the very first season of coaching with Vidarbha, Chandrakant Pandit led the team to the final. Before this season, Vidarbha had even not played the semifinal of the tournament even once.
Talking of Jalaj Saxena’s performance this season, he shone for Kerala by scoring 522 runs at an average of 52.20. He also scalped 44 wickets at a mere average of 17.11. He was the best all-rounder of the season. Jalaj is in the second year of his stint with Kerala, and it was the first time in the history of Ranji Trophy when Kerala qualified for the quarterfinals. Jalaj was one of the major contributors to team’s success along with the coach, Dav Whatmore.
One of the best all-rounders in the domestic cricket, Jalaj Saxena has won the Lala Amaranth award twice in the year 2014/15 and 2015/16.
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