Shitanshu Kotak, 40, may not have much to do with elegance and style while playing shots, but ask any first class cricketer who has played against the Saurashtra left-hander, and they will give him high marks for his grit, stamina and determination to stay in the middle and give his all for the team.

He is delighted that after playing 119 matches for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy, his team has qualified for the final.

His response to the memorable moment is modest. “Once a player knows that he is not going to represent the country but is still playing the Ranji Trophy, it means he is looking to play the highest level of the Ranji Trophy. I can’t think of playing a bigger match in my life than this final,” said Kotak after the team’s first practice session at the Wankhede Stadium here on Thursday.

Kotak has played 128 first class matches, scored 7,982 runs and taken 68 wickets. He has played with three generation of cricketers and has been steadfast than spectacular right through his career.

“This is a big game for us. It’s a pressure game. I personally think we should play like any other Ranji Trophy game and try our best. Mumbai is a big team with Sachin Tendulkar playing as well. If we get a grip on the match, we have to make sure we don’t lose it,” he said.

Excerpts from a media interaction:

On Saurashtra’s rise: I think we have been improving in the last 15 years. And in the last eight years, we have got better with outstanding players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Jaydev Unadkat coming into the scene.

I must also give credit to Mr. Niranjan Shah, who has believed in maintaining the stability of the team. He has not dropped players on the basis of failures in two or three matches and just because some action has to be taken.

Ways to get the better of Mumbai: Well, it all depends on the quality of the wicket. If we win the toss, the only way is to bat them out of the game and get them out once. Or, if we field first, we have to try and utilise the wicket and dismiss their first five batsmen quickly. We should bowl them out for a small score of 200 or 300 and then try to bat them out of the game. We have to play one big innings and we have to bowl them out once.

Saurashtra’s spin attack: I think we have a superior spin attack because of the way we have performed on turning tracks. We have the variety.

We have two off-spinners (Kamlesh Makwana and Vishal Joshi). We also have this young spinner, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, who got more than 40 wickets in the under-25 tournament and nine wickets in his debut match against Madhya Pradesh.

But, I am not sure if they will be useful on this wicket. On a Wankhede wicket with a little bit of grass, I would be surprised if the ball turns much in the first three or four days.

I think the wicket would be lively for seam bowlers and the match will probably be decided by the third or fourth day.

Saurashtra’s pace attack: Jaydev Unadkat bowls some outstanding wicket-taking deliveries. Siddharth Trivedi is an experienced hand, and on this sort of a lively wicket he will be more useful than at Rajkot.

Sandeep Maniar and Saurya Sanandiya are also very experienced.

Does Saurashtra have the team to win the title: Yes, but we need things to go our way. Mumbai is a stronger team, but it’s not always that the stronger teams win. We have played them many times in the last five-six years and we got the first innings lead three times. So the record against Mumbai is not at all bad.

Keywords: Ranji TrophyKotak

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