A dressing room is where strategies are chalked out and clarion calls made. This is precisely where Saurashtra had plotted their ultimate heist in their crunch quarter-final match against Uttar Pradesh. At the end of the first two days, Saurashtra looked down and virtually out of the game, having conceded a first-innings lead of 177 runs.
However, during the mid-innings break, on Day 3, Cheteshwar Pujara gave the team a pep-talk in the confines of the dressing room. “The great plus was that we had Pujara for this game, and he was the one who took the initiative to tell us, ‘guys, it’s a five-day game and we can come back in this game’,” captain Jaydev Unadkat said.
Pujara’s words worked wonders. Not that the team had doubts about their abilities. But it helped them clear their minds more than anything else.
The fact that this was a five-day game also gave Saurashtra time and confidence to mount a comeback. “No one was thinking that we were out of the game. The talk in the team was it will be a two-innings game. Although, we didn’t do well in the first innings, even if we had, we still would have been on our toes,” Unadkat said.
Uttar Pradesh captain Akshdeep Nath concurred with his counterpart’s view. “Yes, we played like it was a four-day game, and that was a factor that went against us. In such matches, players need to show a bit more patience, and because there was more time, it gave Saurashtra a chance to make a comeback.”
Two days after Pujara’s dressing-room talk, Saurashtra romped home, sealing a record 372-run chase. In doing so, they have also clinched their first ever win in their 8th Ranji Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh.