Having taken 20 wickets just twice this season, Gujarat arrived in Nagpur for the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Jharkhand on the horns of uncertainty. They will leave for the final at Indore to correct history with the momentum of an aeroplane at take-off behind them. Gujarat and Jharkhand were engaged in a cat-and-mouse scuffle that regularly threatened to reach a crescendo but was pulled back every time. All of that remained relevant till Jasprit Bumrah sprang into action and orchestrated Gujarat's hardest-earned win, with a six-for in the second innings.
Speaking to Firstpost, man of the moment, inevitably also the man of the match, Bumrah, labelled this Gujarat's best win of the season, considering how tantalisingly poised the match was, going into the final innings.
"This was the best game in the campaign for us. It was an open game, no team was dominating at any stage, it remained open each day of the match," affirmed a satisfied Bumrah.
Notwithstanding RP Singh's efforts (6/90) in the first innings, Gujarat conceded a lead to Jharkhand, albeit a slender advantage of 18 runs. In the context of how the season had transpired, it may have set alarm bells ringing in the dressing room for Gujarat, who now needed an outright result to make it to their first Ranji Trophy final since 1950-51. Never would the hackneyed adage that bowlers win five-day games have been more appropriate for this side that had outscored oppositions for most of the season.
When it was their turn to bat the second time, the script deviated further off its normal course, and the Gujarat batsmen too found themselves in the dock, bowled out for 252, thereby setting Jharkhand just 235 for victory. At that stage the semi-final seemed to be slipping out of their grasp like quicksand. Although, Bumrah differed to later describe it as a fighting total that put the match in a state of equilibrium. "It was an open total, a fighting score, so we believed anything could happen and it could go either way."
The most heartening aspect about Gujarat's defence of 234 was indeed the self-belief of an attack that was not thought incapable of taking 20 wickets, but one that had not found itself in such a situation too often. And in the spotlight were two men written off for contrasting reasons. Thirty one-year-old RP Singh, who set the ball rolling with an early strike in the second innings, has been in the wilderness since the Oval Test faux pas in 2011, where despite discernible lack of match practice, he was roped in as a replacement for the injured Praveen Kumar.
Bumrah, on the other hand, has for long, and perhaps rather fallaciously, been regarded a one-dimensional, limited overs specialist. Given his First-Class average of 25 on predominantly benign surfaces, it should never have been the case. But successive five-wicket hauls in as many matches, including his best First-Class returns of 6/29 in this match, should be enough to quieten his detractors.
At his diplomatic best, Bumrah shrugged off any questions relating to the public perception about him. Instead he went on to explain how the win was achieved through an all-round effort. "My focus is on things under my control, which is my cricket. I don't pay attention to what people think about me or how they perceive me."
"We were getting wickets at crucial times and it was not just Singh and I, even the left-arm spinner (Hardik Patel) bowled really well, although he only had one wicket to show for his efforts. He kept things tight and put them under constant pressure, which allowed Singh and I to rotate from the other end," concluded the pacer.
However, in this sport it is hard not to romanticise things. And unless you're a cricket buff stricken with amnesia, memories of the 2015 Vijay Hazare Trophy final, where Bumrah and RP Singh produced spells eerily similar to the ones in this match, would have come rushing back.
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2017 14:32 PM