One of three domestic cricket teams based in Gujarat, Saurashtra won the Ranji Trophy in 2019-20 when they beat Bengal in a thrilling finale. But what does it take to win the coveted Ranji Trophy title? More than grit and determination, there are the hard yards of the domestic grind.
Mere motivation isn’t enough as the players keep them themselves mentally fresh and upbeat. The amalgamation of a team that comprises international stars along with domestic heroes is probably the Saurashtra mantra of success. Captain Jaydev Unadkat, who led the side to historic success, explains the recipe and how the captain remains a key ingredient of it all.
Explaining the importance of persisting with a consistent bunch of players, Unadakat, in a conversation India off-spinner R Ashwin on his youtube show said, “Saurashtra feels like a family and I have emotions attached to it and when you are connected to the team to that extent you want to do well for the side. Guys like Cheteshawar Pujara, Ravindra, Jadeja Sitanshu Kotak, and Jaidev Shah have been around from the start which makes it easier.”
“All other guys here want to perform and go to the next level and when you have such committed players then they make you push harder and you need to realize that. Saurashtra has been that. There is a certain intensity. In international you don’t need someone else to motivate you. You have yourself to support when you are out there in the middle,” he explained further.
“In domestic, you need to push those things into some of the players. An environment has to be created where if someone feels low on intensity, they see you or the team culture if that level. And then they come into that,” Unadkat said.
“Domestic cricket is a little harder to have that intensity up there and I can say that. But with guys like Pujara and Jadeja, who have played for the country, they bring in the competitiveness of that international level. We see them and learn and incorporate that and that is a huge benefit. Both Cheteshwar and Ravindra have been the pillars of strength for Saurashtra.
According to Unadkat, the talent is there even at the district level. But the scattered structure of domestic cricket hampers progress in the state. “But even at that level, you can find one or two guys who are capable enough to play at that level. However, they are not nurtured well,” he remarked.
But Unadkat points out to another side to this — “Some of them emerge without guidance and that can be an advantage as well because they have been very natural. They are not manipulated in terms of technique and hence bring in the x-factor.”
Stability of leadership
When asked if there was one particular thing that could be defined as the reason for triumph, Unadkat opined that would be difficult but relating to the 2019-20 season, he said, “A captain is a very important person for domestic cricket. Coaches will come and go but the captain remains. So it is essential to have stability.”
“For example this year I was with the team even though Puajra and Jadeja were not there. I know the other guys for the past 10 years, professionally and personally, making it so much easier. So it is very important to have this sort of relationship and maintain it. What is also important is to create an environment where you are not judged personally.”
“I have faced it myself when I have not been comfortable in a team and was not able to perform to the best of my abilities. So we try to create a comfortable environment and thereby take our team to greater heights,” he concluded.