Clarity, security and the Unadkat effect: How Saurashtra won Vijay Hazare Trophy
Emotional scenes unfolded after Saurashtra beat Maharashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final this week. Captain Jaydev Unadkat was down on his knees and soaked in the moment before he made his way to the presentation ceremony where he applauded the opposition and then his teammates for putting up a brave show with both bat and ball.
The moment the trophy was handed over to the lanky seamer, he signalled towards the stands and asked family members of the teammates to join in for the celebrations. It’s rare sight in domestic circuit. It was after Unadkat’s insistence that the association agreed to the arrangement and most family members were with the squad since the quarters stage of India’s premier List A tournament.
“Jaydev has initiated this and the association has supported it. All the players have now started taking their family along. Not just for knockouts, but if the window allows, they come in league games also. Knockouts were in Gujarat so most families could join early since it was close to home,” reveals Saurashtra batsman Arpit Vasavada in an exclusive conversation with News18 Cricketnext.
‘Very touching to see Avi Barot’s family in the stands’
There were two special attendees in the stand too. Wife and daughter of late Saurashtra cricketer Avi Barot who passed away due to a heart attack in October 2021. The aggressive batter was just 29 and his wife was expecting their first child. The entire Saurashtra camp was moved by their presence and were elated to win the title in presence of their late teammate’s family.
“I won’t be able to describe it in words… Me and Avi were in the same department and played together a lot at CAG. We played a lot of cricket together for both CAG and Saurashtra as well. It was very emotional to see his wife and daughter in the stands when we won the trophy. Avi was full of life… very lively. He kept the atmosphere very light He used to speak a lot, talk a lot and kept everything light and high. We still feel his aura with us. We can still feel his presence with us. It was very touching to see his wife and daughter supporting us from the stands,” says Arpit.
Saurashtra are more than a cricket team. It’s a well-oiled unit, more like a big family which stays together, hunts together and in their case, dominates the domestic circuit together. In the last decade, they have been doing well in the red-ball cricket and have now managed to turn a corner in the white-ball formats.
Not thinking about IPL or Team India, focussed on producing consistent performances: Saurashtra’s Chirag Jani
“I have been playing for Saurashtra for quite a long time now. First time we played the Ranji final was against Mumbai in 2012-13 season. Since then, we have played a total of four Ranji Trophy finals, two Vijay Hazare Trophy finals and managed to win the Vijay Hazare this time. I have seen that change in culture. We’ve become a dominant team from an average team,” Arpit added.
Clarity and security
A quick look at the teamsheets of Saurashtra for both Vijay Hazare Trophy final (against Maharashtra) this year and the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final (vs Bengal), and you spot very few new names. The Unadkat-led unit won the title on both occasions and have stuck to same set of individuals.
“We are quite an established unit now. All the players are playing since quite a long time now, together. They are nicely settled in the team. One thing is that the safety of players is there… they are not insecure about their position or role or name in the side. The place is cemented. Once that is done, the mindset changes for the team’s cause and purpose.
“No one plays for themselves, everyone wants to do well for the whole team and contribute in the team’s cause. Everyone has a specific role and everyone plays it well. No coach or captain will describe the role anymore as everyone knows it. We are very clear about what team wants us to do in a particular situation. That’s why we are doing well,” says Arpit who has been part of the Saurashtra setup for more than a decade now.
The crisis man
Arpit, who has played 67 First Class games for Saurashtra, is the crisis man for the side. Four of his eight hundreds at the FC level came in the 2019-20 Ranji season which Saurashtra thoroughly dominated. Arpit scored 763 runs that season at an average of 54.50.
“All the knocks that year were very special, especially the semi-final and final. I would like to specially mention the semi-final against Gujarat. Team was under a lot of pressure and when I remember that innings, I get goose bumps. Even right now (laughs). We were 15/5 in the second innings and more than two days were left. I went and played the hat-trick ball. Gaja (who picked seven wickets in that innings) got two wickets in two balls. That scenario was very tricky. It was a special innings (139) to pull out the team from there and then to finally win that game,” recalls Arpit.
The Unadkat effect and white-ball turnaround
While Saurashtra were always amongst the big boys in the Ranji Trophy, it was the shorter formats which needed attention.
Ever since he took over captaincy, Unadkat instilled self-belief into the unit and passed his IPL/international experiences to the squad. According to Arpit, the team got that killer instinct and fearlessness which was needed to excel.
“Cheteshwar still comes and plays for us in Ranji Trophy whenever he gets the window. (Ravindra) Jadeja hasn’t played for Saurashtra since a long time. Pujara’s red-ball experience was always there for us and it’s quite amazing. But the white-ball change which Jaydev Unadkat has brought is brilliant. He initiated that culture. We were not that fearless, not that confident in white ball as we are right now. That approach has been put in everyone’s mind by Unadkat. I think he has that vision of how a team could do well in limited overs. His vision is a little bit different from what we had in the past. His great skill is to transfer that personal experience. The way he transferred it is excellent. Whether we win or lose, we now enjoy a lot. Playing under his captaincy and playing white ball cricket. We started enjoying the challenges posed by good teams and that is the mindset which Unadkat has transferred brilliantly to everyone,” reveals Arpit.
Not many have gone on to play in the IPL from Saurashtra. The likes of Jaydev Unadkat, Ravindra Jadeja and Chetan Sakariya have been regulars in the cash-rich league and Arpit now feels success in white-ball competitions will only help other players to take that step and realise their dream of playing in the “best league of the world”.
“As a cricketer everybody wants to play at highest level and the IPL. Prerak Mankad was in the IPL last time around, Sheldon Jackson was also there, Samarth Vyas has done very well in white-ball matches this year too. Five-six players are there in the circuit and obviously when we are winning Vijay Hazare Trophy and consistently qualifying in Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy too, more and more players could play this time, including me,” says Arpit.
Back to familiar territory
After winning the Ranji Trophy title in 2019-20 season, Saurashtra didn’t do well in the trimmed version which happened last season. With the full-fledged home and away version of the tournament returning this time around, Arpit is very excited and feels they have the side to do the job in what is a very “competitive group”.
“We all are very excited. When we won the Ranji Trophy, there was no Ranji next year and then it was a short tournament last time around. This year we are getting a full-fledged trophy. We are very excited and very up for it. We have the Vijay Hazare Trophy title under our belt and are feeling very confident ahead of the Ranji season. We have a very competitive group this time around as teams are good and it will be a good challenge to compete,” says Arpit.
Read all the Latest News, Trending News, Cricket News, Bollywood News, India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For all the latest Sports News Click Here
For the latest news and updates, follow us on Google News.