Vidarbha banking on home advantage against Pandit’s MP | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Vidarbha banking on home advantage against Pandit’s MP

Mar 01, 2024 10:57 PM IST

Three of the last five Ranji titles have been won by either Vidarbha or Madhya Pradesh

Nagpur may be the geographical center of India and host venue Civil Lines stadium located at the heart of the city, but it’s not the Vidarbha-Madhya Pradesh Ranji trophy semi-final which will hold center-stage. There will be much greater focus on the Mumbai-Tamil Nadu clash, featuring Shreyas Iyer, in his first domestic outing after losing his India contract.

While Vidarbha had a more comfortable win in the quarter-finals against Karnataka – they bowled the opposition out on the final day and won by 127 runs, MP came through against Andhra with the barest of margins – 4 runs.(PTI)
While Vidarbha had a more comfortable win in the quarter-finals against Karnataka – they bowled the opposition out on the final day and won by 127 runs, MP came through against Andhra with the barest of margins – 4 runs.(PTI)

However, that will not discourage either Vidarbha or Madhya Pradesh, who have made a habit of finding tournament-success without stars or attention. In the past five years, three Ranji titles have been won between these two teams - Vidarbha won back-to-back in 2017-18 and 18-19 and MP in 2021-22. Behind each of these victories, there was one master mind - Chandrakant Pandit, the most successful head coach on the Ranji circuit.

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“Any team in the knockout round has to be a good team. I only have to remind my players of the change in mindset and that there are no second chances here. It will be a good battle,” said Pandit, sitting in the MP corner.

All the four semi-finalists being table toppers of the league phase is a fair reflection of the strength of the competing pool. While Vidarbha had a more comfortable win in the quarter-finals against Karnataka – they bowled the opposition out on the final day and won by 127 runs, MP came through against Andhra with the barest of margins – 4 runs.

In MP’s close win, pacer Anubhav Agarwal, who claimed six wickets in the final innings, came out an unlikely hero amongst other bowlers who had India, India A and IPL experience. Identifying heroes for pressure moments has been one of Pandit’s strong suits.

Vidarbha haven’t had flashy performances this year, but the batting workload has been shared by their outstation imports – Karun Nair (515 runs) and Dhruv Shorey (496 runs) as well as local boy Atharva Taide (488 runs). With the ball, the bulk of the damage has been done by left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate (37 wkts).

For MP too, there’s no one topping the season’s run-scoring charts or wicket-taker’s list – Venkatesh Iyer has top scored for MP with 528 runs, while left-arm wrist-spinner Kumar Kartikeya has picked up most of their wickets (38).

At the best of times, Ranji trophy knockout matches are short on promotion. But for individual players, at different stages of their careers, these matches mean the world.

Those like Taide, Kartikeya and Saransh Jain (off-spin all-rounder) are pushing for higher honours. Avesh Khan would be yearning for a heroic performance, so that he could re-join his state-mate Rajat Patidar in the Indian dressing room.

For the likes of Karun Nair and Umesh Yadav, it may be a case of playing for pride. Or, who knows, at this late stage of their careers, they may still carry the belief to take center-stage again.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Rasesh Mandani loves a straight drive. He has been covering cricket, the governance and business side of sport for close to two decades. He writes and video blogs for HT.

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