MADHYA PRADESH captain Aditya Shrivastava was waiting for his turn to speak after Mumbai skipper Prithvi Shaw at the post-match presentation of the Ranji Trophy final. But Shrivastava’s team had walked over to the board reading “Champions”, ready to pose for photographs.
Earlier, in another glimpse of what this maiden Ranji Trophy crown means to a state formed in 1956, Shrivastava was already in his official dark blue MP blazer as he stood a few metres from his impatient teammates just moments after the six-wicket victory over 41-time champions Mumbai.
“Completely ecstatic,” the 28-year old captain began when it was his turn to talk to the presenter, Anjum Chopra, the former India captain.
“A generation…of time has gone by and MP has won the Ranji Trophy for the first time now. It is the moment of a lifetime for me. The emotions are really deep in the squad, we are trying to laugh it out loud, but we are extremely emotional from inside,” Shrivastava said.
MP has produced India players such as Narendra Hirwani, Rajesh Chauhan, Amay Khurasiya, Jai Prakash Yadav, Naman Ojha and the third-highest run-getter in Ranji history Devendra Bundela. But the Ranji Trophy had proved elusive, unlike the golden period of the distant past when a part of the region, including the cricketing nerve centre Indore, was represented by the Holkar team.
Comprising legends such as C K Nayudu, C S Nayudu, Syed Mushtaq Ali and Chandu Sarwate, Holkar reached the Ranji final ten times in 11 seasons from 1944-45 to 1954-55, and won the trophy four times, the last of which came 69 years ago in 1952-53.
On Sunday, having managed to hold on to his feelings during the post-match speech, Shrivastava flung aside the mike, accepted the Ranji Trophy, walked over to his team and handed the cup to an overjoyed Akshat Raghuwanshi, the 18-year old attacking batsman who began with a hundred on debut this season and made three crucial fifties, two of them in the knockouts.
Shrivastava and coach Chandrakant Pandit then held up the trophy and kissed it. The heartbreak of 1998-99 at the same Chinnaswamy Stadium was on then-captain Pandit’s mind. That was the only previous occasion when MP had reached the final, and had one hand on the title, before squandering a safe position against hosts Karnataka deep into the last day. “Twenty-three years later, we are back here and we have done it,” Pandit said.
The team walked with the trophy towards the stand next to their dressing room where about a thousand fans stood and cheered from the upper tier. The fans had largely backed MP through the five days of the match, with their Royal Challengers Bangalore star and MP middle-order batsman Rajat Patidar receiving special adulation. Shouts of “RCB, RCB” and “Patidar, Patidar” had been a constant chorus.
Patidar, who had made a dominant century in the IPL knockouts, did a repeat against Mumbai in the first innings of the final, and hit the winning runs in the second. Now, he held the trophy over his head and walked to the edge of the boundary, making the fans roar louder.
The team proceeded to walk over to the middle of the ground, where they set the trophy down and soaked in the moment for a while. The ground staff and the main curators assembled nearby, and were soon joined by the MP players and support staff. Coach Pandit addressed the gathering, talking about how MP had arrived early in Bengaluru in the middle of May with a couple of weeks to go for the Ranji knockouts, and how hard the ground staff had worked to arrange nets so that the team could practise well.
Pandit then turned to his players and said: “Not only have you achieved something historic, but it is also a historic occasion for this ground, as it has hosted its 100th Ranji match. So this day is doubly historic.” Captain Shrivastava then walked over to the curators and handed over a bunch of currency notes as a token of the team’s appreciation.
In the press conference that followed, Shrivastava spoke about the dedication of his unit during preparation and the personal “sacrifices” they had made under the coach, who is known as a hard taskmaster.
Pandit intervened: “I remember he was supposed to get married last year and asked me, ‘sir, which date should I pick?’ I told him only in June and that too only for two-three days, you will not get time to go on your honeymoon because we had started our preparations.”
Shrivastava responded: “It has been a year since I got married and I have still not gone on my honeymoon.”
Pandit went on to call his combination with Shrivastava the best he had had in a long career — this was his sixth Ranji title as a coach.
“I have worked with many associations and have handled many captains,” Pandit said. “But the rapport that Aditya and I have is entirely different. He is the only captain who has spent hours and hours in my room. None of the other captains were as interested in the other players and the team, and the coach had to be following up with them. Here, it is the other way round.”
Shrivastava said he wanted to build on what this group of players had achieved. “This has been my first year as captain and whatever I know about leading a side is from Chandrakant sir. I would like to continue this. Doing it once was not at all easy, but it is going to be tougher to do it again.”
Pandit has coached Mumbai and Vidarbha to back-to-back Ranji titles before, so who knows what further glory awaits MP next season.
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