Three wickets in the final session set Gujarat’s aspirations of building a big first-innings lead back, but Vijay Patel cautioned against taking his lower order lightly in their Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai.
Gujarat ended day two at the Holkar Stadium in Indore on 291 for 6, a lead of 63. “Let’s see tomorrow, we are still only six wickets down. There is still a long way to go,” said Vijay, the coach. “We know the capabilities of our batsmen, our lower order has always got many runs for us. We have even won matches on the scores of the lower order. It will be interesting tomorrow morning.”
Wednesday (January 11) morning began with Gujarat on 2 without loss, and they hardly scored a run in the first 45 minutes. Samit Gohel and Priyank Panchal scored 4 off 34 and 6 off 51 respectively, but the coach made a spirited defence of the openers. “In the morning, because of the cold and because there is a bit of moisture in the wicket, the ball was moving around. So they played cautiously but unfortunately they got out to the moving ball. But if you look at both the days, once the wicket eases out after lunch-time, then you get runs easily. Today also, we got 130 runs in that session, so it was a good session for us.”
A majority of those runs was made by the fourth-wicket pair of Parthiv Patel and Manprit Juneja, who scored 90 and 77 respectively. “Definitely it was an important partnership,” agreed Vijay. “At one stage, it was 37 for 2, they were bowling well. At that stage, even Bhargav (Merai) played well. At the time of crisis, he played that innings, a brilliant innings (of 45). Unfortunately he got out. Then Manprit and Parthiv definitely took the initiative away from the Mumbai side.
“Parthiv’s was a brilliant innings. And Manprit is the kind of player who, some two years back, he had played for India A and got a lot of runs. He was on the verge of playing for India, that’s what we were told, but he then actually had a bad run. But we know his capabilities, so we kept him in the team. In one season, he got only 100 runs in eight matches but we had faith in him and we are being proven right now. I Hope he plays for India, India A, whatever.”
Gujarat received a psychological boost as Axar Patel, the injured left-arm spinner, joined the camp on Wednesday. Axar injured his thumb while fielding as a substitute during the Chennai Test against England last month, and could not add to his tally of five Ranji games for Gujarat this season. “He is a part of our team, he wanted to be with the team during the final,” explained Vijay. “Yesterday he was in Mumbai for a check-up, the doctor gave him the go-ahead to join the team. His presence will be helpful to the boys also, his advice will be helpful to the spinners in the side, so we made him join the team.
“Jasprit (Bumrah) is also watching the match, always on WhatsApp. But unfortunately, he can’t be here because of the ODI. After all, he has come up playing for Gujarat and Gujarat are playing the finals after 66 years. He was upset when he came to know that he won’t be playing the finals but then he cannot be with the team because he has joined the camp in Pune. But we know he is with us in spirit.”
Bumrah had been the Man of the Match in the semifinal, when his 6 for 29 helped Gujarat overturn an 18-run deficit and dismiss Jharkhand for 111 to complete a 123-run rout.