Saurashtra Coach Sitanshu Kotak has credited his team’s positive attitude despite conceding a first innings lead of 170 as the main reason for their victory over Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals in Lucknow. On the final day Saurashtra chased down 372, the highest run chase in Ranji Trophy history, to book a place in the last four.
While openers Harvik Desai and Snell Patel added 132 for the first wicket, with Desai making a hundred, Cheteshwar Pujara made his recent international form count to hit a crucial 67* and in the company of another senior player Sheldon Jackson, who chipped in with 73*, strung together an unbeaten partnership of 136 that sealed a famous victory.
“If you see we had a bad first innings and conceded a lead of over 170,” Kotak told Cricketnext after the match. “It’s never easy to make a comeback in the match when you are behind by that big margin. The key here was that throughout the match, the team remained positive of chasing down whatever came there way, be it 400 or 450.
“The bowlers remained patient throughout and brought us back in the match. Despite a partnership in the second innings, when UP were 100/1, we did not lose hope. I can say that after the first innings mishap everything went to the plan."
Reflecting on the first innings batting collapse that saw Saurashtra bowled out for 208, Kotak described it as a one-off. His message to the team was not to repeat the same mistakes in the second innings the batsmen did just that.
“UP bowlers bowled really well and we must give them the credit,” he said. “Three of our batsmen got out for first ball ducks in the first innings, all of which were wicket-taking deliveries. We didn’t really play loose shots. It can happen sometimes to the best of the teams. But then what was important is that we came out stronger and didn’t give away easy wickets in the second innings.”
Kotak reserved special praise for young opener Desai, who slammed his maiden ton in the competition to continue his good run this season. He also said that Pujara’s decision to bat at four was made so as to allow another youngster, Vishvaraj Jadeja, to bat in a familiar position.
“Harvik has been a revelation for us,” he said. “Not only this match, but he has done well for us in the entire season. It’s never easy to do that in your debut season, but he’s got six fifties and a ton. Had he converted some of the fifties into hundreds, he would have been a big name already in the domestic circuit. But he has given enough account of his abilities and will be a big player for us in the future.
“With regards to Pujara batting at number four, it was his decision to let bat ahead of him, who made his debut three games back. And then the ploy worked as Jadeja went on to make a crucial 35 in the second innings. So, the team is benefiting from the presence of the seniors, which in the long run is good for our cricket.”
The road ahead doesn’t get easy for Saurashtra, with a semifinal against Karnataka, a side brimming with several international players, coming up in Bangalore in a few days. Kotak says his team is undaunted by the prospect.
“We are up against a champion side in Karnataka,” he said. “We would like to play to our strengths and not worry about the quality of opposition. Having said that we are definitely setting a goal of making the final. For now, we haven’t seen the wicket too. So the strategy part will come later when we reach the venue for the semis. We have won against them in the leagues, so we can do that again."