Ranji Trophy: Sachin Baby gets ready to take on Gujarat in quarterfinals

Quiet an achievement, this!

For someone whose boys had just been thrashed by 10 wickets inside three days, Dav Whatmore’s smile seemed particularly warm on that cold New Year’s Day evening at Mohali.

From being one of the top contenders for the quarterfinal berths of the Ranji Trophy, they had been reduced to one of the ten teams that stood an outside chance to qualify — provided they won their last match.

Yet, Whatmore sounded cheerful. And hopeful.

Realistic

But, he was realistic, too. He conceded the team had been let down by its batsmen, even as the bowlers had performed admirably right through the season

The World Cup-winning coach had added: “But we are still alive in the competition, with that match to go against Himachal.”

And they continue to be alive — even after that match against Himachal, which ended at Nadaun on Thursday. That is something they can be mighty proud of.

  • Sandeep Warrier has taken 31 wickets, Basil Thampi 25 and M.D. Nidheesh 11 (from three matches this season
  • Jalaj Saxena, who missed the last match due to injury, has taken 28 wickets and scored 479 runs

It is tough to go into your last match, knowing that nothing less than a victory will do. It is tougher when you are forced to take the field without your most valuable player, the man who is both your top run-getter and leading wicket-taker. And it is even tougher to chase close to 300 in the fourth innings, on the final day.

But, this bunch of young men, led admirably by Sachin Baby, dared to dream. They knew that if they could create history a year ago — by becoming the first ever Kerala team to reach the knockout stage — they could do it again.

They did it in some style, too. They won four matches in the toughest Groups (A and B), more than any of their 17 rivals. Two of those wins came away.

“That is important — last year we could win only one away game — and it shows the team is moving in the right direction,” Whatmore told The Hindu over phone from Bengaluru, on his way to Krishnagiri, Wayanad, where Kerala will take on Gujarat from January 15.

Memorable win

“The win against Himachal was special. It would remain one of the most memorable of my coaching career.” As it would for the entire team.

Remember, Kerala had begun its campaign on the wrong foot, with players seeking the removal of the captain. But, the Kerala Cricket Association stood by Baby. Then, as did the players. Together, they showed they are a force to reckon with in Indian cricket.

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