Vantage point

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The New Superpower of Indian Cricket

Another surefire sign of the emergence of a new superpower in Indian cricket - Uttar Pradesh wins the Ranji Trophy

Anyone who has followed this year's Ranji trophy will know how remarkable this win is. In most seasons, the Ranji champions ride a juggernaut from the beginning to end. But this year, we witnessed a rare happening. A team displaying grit and determination, fighting back from a nearly impossible situation, to capture the ultimate prize. From staring at relegation to lifting the trophy! And they were led by an inspiring captain and one of the toughest cricketers in India - Mohammad Kaif.

Not since VVS Laxman's dream 2000-01 season has a batsman staked a claim for inclusion into the Indian test side so forcefully through his performances in the domestic cricket. What makes Kaif's performance so remarkable is that he also captained the side, and led by example. In the final, he got a 90-odd in the first inning, and a century in the second. Even in the previous matches, his consistency, matched with that of Suresh Raina, was instrumental in getting UP to this stage.

I hope Kaif is chosen for the test series against England. Even if a specialist opener is chosen, i believe he deserves the spot ahead of Yuvraj Singh. People often say to me that Yuvraj is a better strokeplayer, and my response is, exactly. With Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni in the batting line-up, do we really need more strokeplay? Or do we need a firefighter, a scrapper like the Mohammad Kaif we saw battling against Australia? Kaif it is!

Another UP player I am very excited about is the teenager Piyush Chawla. He is supposed to be a "genuine" leg-spinner, a quick learner, big-hearted, very aggressive, and is regarded very highly by Tendulkar himself. I hope Chappell and Dravid have their eyes on him, and have chalked out a path to get him into the team at the right time.

Overall, UP has shaped up very well. The team's presence is already being seen in the ODI team with 4 caps. With this win, they can start eyeing the test team as well.