Bangalore: A special occasion brought Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, who rarely attends any of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) functions, to the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Friday (March 13).
Himself a two-time Ranji Trophy champion, Chandrasekhar was there along with G Kasturirangan, Gundappa Viswanath, B Vijayakrishna, Sadanand Vishwanath, Raghuram Bhatt and other Karnataka stalwarts to greet and congratulate R Vinay Kumar's team, which successfully defended the Ranji Trophy title on Thursday with an innings win over Tamil Nadu in the final in Mumbai.
The bus carrying the team from the airport entered the stadium premises at 1:25 p.m. amidst drumbeats, bursting of firecrackers and a lot of waving of the state flag. Robin Uthappa, the season's highest run-getter, was the first to get out of the bus, followed by the rest as they were hugged by those around them, eager to be a part of history, or requested for a photograph or an autograph on their way to the pavilion hall for the official reception party.
The trophy glittered on the side stage as players, support staffers and selectors were presented with a turban (the Mysore peta) and a shawl. There was good humour too when Viswanath placed the headgear wrongly on CM Gautam's head. Someone pointed out that he had to turn it around and, always up for a quip, Viswanath replied that he was trying to practice the reverse sweep.
The loudest cheer from the team, seated on the opposite side to the rest of the gathering, was reserved for J Arunkumar and Mansoor Ali Khan, the batting and bowling coaches respectively, B Siddaramu and Ramesh Rao, the two managers, physio Shravan, trainer Prashant Pujara, video analyst Srinivas, and Atanu, the masseur. It told a bit about the bonhomie in the camp that has brought Karnataka five trophies in the last two seasons.
Vinay, who became the first captain to score a century and take five wickets in an innings in a Ranji Trophy final and also ended as the season's joint-highest wicket taker with 48 scalps, thanked everyone he could for the support, and said how, at one point during the season, he was fed up with the amount of advice he was getting from fans on social media. Though he ignored most of them, he said he was happy that the team was being followed so religiously in a World Cup year.
Vinay also recollected the video message he had recorded for the Sports Writers Association of Bangalore awards ceremony last year, when he had pointed out that if his side could even play at 80 percent of its potential, Karnataka would be able to retain the trophy.
Among the players, Uthappa, KL Rahul, Karun Nair and Abhimanyu Mithun were most sought after as journalists, club members and the cricketers mingled after a group photograph of the winning team ended the event.
However, amid the celebrations, no one had lost sight of the upcoming challenges.
Karnataka would now have to defend their Irani Cup title against Rest of India in Bangalore from March 17, before the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament, the one that got away from them last season, starts on March 24.
Brijesh Patel, the KSCA secretary, while complimenting the team, pushed the bar a bit higher for the boys: "The press guys are calling me to find out what award KSCA is going to give to the boys. I said, 'we will definitely give them, but they still have two more trophies to win'."
Vinay, on his part, used the platform to connect history with the future. "In 1995-96, we had so many players from Karnataka playing for India," he said. "We are soon going to repeat that."
Talk about the pressures a champion side has to deal with.
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