Meticulous Rajasthan retain crown

Cricket Ranji Trophy:Bist completes 1000 runs for season

Rajasthan’s cricket all season long – indeed for the last two seasons – has been built around understated efficiency and a clinical approach without any place for flamboyance.

Clinical: Rajasthan players are ecstatic after becoming the fifth team to successfully defend their Ranji Trophy title. PTIIt was, therefore, no surprise to see that there were no over-the-top celebrations at the MA Chidambaram stadium on Monday afternoon.

Yes, there were a few mad scrambles for stumps as souvenirs, a couple of well-intentioned tugs-of-war between those that managed mementoes and those that didn’t, but otherwise, there was just a quiet acceptance of the fact that over the last two and a half months, they have been the most consistent side in Indian domestic cricket.

Their surge to a second title in as many years was no more than a mere formality going into the last day of the final of the 78th Ranji Trophy. Trailing by 326 on the first count, Tamil Nadu had as much chance of effecting a turnaround as of finding snow in the desert, Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s Rajasthan basking in their collective success and making room for individual glory for Robin Bist.

The short right-hander became the first man in three seasons to breach the 1000-run barrier in a Ranji season, joining an elite club that now has 12 members. At hand to welcome him into rarified territory was former Tamil Nadu captain Woorkeri Raman, one of the previous 11 to achieve that feat.

Whether Bist would keep his deserved tryst with history was about the only point of interest on a lacklustre final day. In the end, the 24-year-old easily cruised past the 58 he required to touch four figures, but a fifth hundred of the season eluded him.

Rajasthan batted on till tea, mainly against Tamil Nadu’s occasional bowlers, before declaring their innings at 204 for five. It gave them a lead of 530 but more importantly, 30 minutes in which to make up for having bowled two overs short in the first innings.

Left-arm spinner Gajendra Singh rocked the hosts with two early strikes before the teams shook hands at the start of the mandatory overs, Tamil Nadu’s eight for two in 13 overs perfectly illustrative of their travails over the last five days.

Bist is one of the few flair players in a workmanlike Rajasthan batting line-up, a pocket-sized dynamo with an attractive streak to him. Lakshmipathi Balaji decided there was little point in keeping the frontline pacers on for long, giving part-time medium-pacer R Prasanna a long bowl alongside left-arm spinner R Aushik Srinivas.

Most of the players were merely going through the motions, but not Bist or first-innings double centurion Vineet Saxena, the man of the final for his mammoth 257. Aakash Chopra’s fall in the day’s second over, coupled with Kanitkar’s decision to push Bist up to number three at his own expense, united the two men with the only chance of making 1000 runs for the Ranji season.

Where Saxena, who began the second essay on 882 runs, failed to kick on, Bist batted as if on a first-day track, untroubled by the variable bounce as he played his strokes with authority. There were a few easy runs on offer alright, but that should in no way detract from either the quality of Bist’s knock or the magnitude of his accomplishment.

A single to square leg off J Kaushik took him 1000 runs for the season, acknowledged by a wave of the bat in the direction of his applauding mates in the dressing room. The organised, compact young man has a future ahead of him, provided he can kick on from here and embrace the kind of consistency that will catch the eyes of the national selectors, though he will be kicking himself for having thrown his hand away when a hundred was his for the taking.

Kanitkar received the Ranji Trophy and a cheque for Rs 2 crore from U Prabhakar Rao, one of the vice-presidents of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, while Balaji and his boys had the scant consolation of Rs 1 crore for another Ranji final lost.

Cash award for team

The Rajasthan Cricket Association announced a cash award of Rs 1.31 crore for its triumphant State team.

The BCCI has also announced a cash prize of Rs 2 crore for the team.

“I am immensely pleased by the performance of the team and RCA has decided to honour the players with a cash award of Rs 1.31 crore,” said the president of the RCA and central minister CP Joshi.

“In addition, I would also convince the State Government to announce some award for the team,” he added.

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