A path-breaking triumph, say stalwarts

Karnataka's Ranji title victory over TN in 1995-96 spurred state players to bigger heights

A path-breaking triumph, say stalwarts

Come Sunday, Karnataka will take on Tamil Nadu in their bid to defend the Ranji Trophy title. But in 1995-96, Anil Kumble-led Karnataka had tamed the same opposition at the MA Chidambaram stadium to bring home the title. It was the beginning point of their domination of the Indian domestic circuit till the early 2000s, and also establishing themselves as a major supplyline to the Indian cricket team.

Deccan Herald interacted with some of the members of that team, re-tracing an epochal triumph.

Memories of victory
Rahul Dravid: It was a terrific feeling. We hadn’t won the Ranji Trophy for nearly 12 or 13 years. In that team nobody had won the Ranji Trophy. It was a great experience for all of us. We have been threatening (to win a trophy) for a few years, and we could almost sense it. We were building up a good team. We already had Srinath, Anil and Venky playing for India. In fact, the whole season they were not available. They came to play only that final against TN. But there were a young group of players coming through. Myself, (Sunil) Joshi, (David) Johnson, (Dodda) Ganesh, Sujith (Somasundar), Vijay Bharadwaj. Arun Kumar...so there was this whole new group coming through. We had reached quarterfinals and semfinals before that for a couple of years but hadn’t really go on. More importantly, that win marked the begnning of a time when we won Ranji Trophy three times in four years. And because of that triumph five-six of us went on to play for India. In fact, six of us went on to play for India against England in June that year.
Avinash Vaidya: It was a once in a life-time feeling and tough to explain it in words. The title triumph came after long years and we had worked very hard for it.
Sujith Somasundar: It was a great victory. Memories are great. Nothing like winning the Ranji Trophy after a decade or so. Usually, a Karnataka vs TN match is like an India-Pakistan match for its intensity. It was a wonderful victory at their ground at Chepauk.
Sunil Joshi: It was our first victory after the 1982-83 season. It was a much-needed win for Karnataka after a few seasons of coming close to winning the title.

The personal effort
Dravid (114 in first innings): In the final, we won an important toss in Chennai (then Madras). It was a really flat wicket at Chepauk, and we knew that we had to make a big first innings total. First day, Sujith and Avinash had an important partnership. They didn’t bat quickly but they had a long partnership and tired out the Tamil Nadu bowlers. The next day myself and Vijay Bharadwaj exploited that platform and got a hundred each. Once we put up a big total on the board in the first innings, we had a terrific bowling line-up and it was always hard for them to chase. At the end of that knock, it was always a good feeling that I did enough to win the game for the team.

Vaidya (42 & 61 as opener and put on two 100-run partnerships with Somasundar): I was not an opener. I used to bat at seven or eight and I invariably had the opportunity to play the second new ball. So they promoted me in the final as an opener to have a better balance in place of J Arun Kumar. They could also add more depth to bowling as Anil, Sri and Venky came back for that match. My job basically was to see the new ball off and give a platform to bigger batsmen down the order. But I kept on batting. In fact, I and Sujith put together a 100-run (133) partnership. The importance of that parternship was, TN began to think if they could not dislodge me, how they were going to dismiss batsmen like Rahul, Vijay, Jeshwant etc. It was the only I game opened in the season.
Somasundar (99 & 53 as opener): We experimented with the opening in that game as Avinash came for JAK. It was a bit tough because right through the season I had a partner and in final I had a different partner but both of us managed it well to add more than 100 runs. In fact, in both the innings we made more than 100 runs. Avinash at the other end pulled the shutters down and tired out the TN bowlers. I remember getting run out for 99 in the first innings. It was very painful. In fact, I was thinking how to celebrate the hundred. At that time, ESPN was telecasting this match live and lot of my friends had come to watch the match as well.

Joshi (86 in first innings and 3 wickets): I was in good form throughout the season and came to the match with lot of wickets in kitty. I had also scored 500 runs. They gave me the number five position to bat because of my confidence coming into that match. I got run out for 86. Anil (Kumble) was the non-striker and he told me later: ‘Sorry Jo, I thought there was a run.” I missed a hundred but I never felt any sadness because we won the Ranji Trophy. It was also a special occasion for me as a bowler as I grabbed my 50th wicket for that season, a caught and bowl to dismiss (WV) Raman. It was a hard shot at me but somehow held on to it.

On the new crop
Dravid: Good to see this new crop coming in and putting in consistent performances again after a decade or so. Wishing them all the best.

Vaidya: This a consistent side. They have all the trappings to become an all-time great side for Karnataka. A lot credit should go to Vinay for leading by example.

Somasundar: They have sustained the momentum from last season, winning almost everything this season. We have wonderful bowling side, capable of getting the teams out twice which is very crucial. Also full marks goes to Vinay the captain.

Joshi: Robin has scored more than 900 runs. Manish, KL Rahul and Samarth have also done well. Shreyas too has come forward very strongly. Also a big pat for Vinay for leading the side well. Karnataka cricket is on the upward curve, and everybody should accept that they are the number one side in the country.

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