Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: The entire Gujarat team ran onto the pitch after its thrilling one-wicket win over Railways in the Ranji Trophy Plate final. Down from Elite to the Plate group last year, Gujarat is now back among India’s best.

For captain Parthiv Patel, accustomed to the glamour of international cricket, the grind of Plate group cricket helped him in honing his batting skills and infusing confidence in his teammates. “The difference between domestic cricket and international cricket is in the approach. For a first-class cricketer looking to make a mark internationally, you need to be aggressive in your approach.”

Gujarat’s bowling outlook reflected the skipper’s thinking. “Our bowlers have taken 20 wickets in almost each match this season, a huge help in increasing the confidence of batsmen,” Parthiv said.

Gujarat kept its nose ahead in the first innings, decisive in creating breathing space for the final charge by Parthiv’s bowlers, ready to deliver on demand.

“My bowlers were outstanding, not just by getting wickets but chipping in with useful runs. Someone or the other has put his hand up when the team needed runs.”

Railways captain Murli Kartik said: “It is very difficult to play in the Plate group, once you have competed in the Elite division. The most striking part for me is the extent of coverage for Plate matches — almost negligible.”

A telling observation on the disparity in stature and opportunities for a Plate group player.

See-saw ride

It has been a see-saw ride for Railways. India’s champion side in 2004-05 the Railways, relegated the next season, redeemed its reputation by qualifying for the Plate final and gaining entry into the Elite.

The relegated squad lost three performers (J.P. Yadav, Shreyas Khanolkar and T.P. Singh) to the Indian Cricket League, forcing the team management to bank on raw talents.

Kartik looks at the positive aspect of ICL tangle with BCCI. “Look at the opportunities created for young players like Harshad Rawle, Karan Sharma and Mahesh Rawat. Santosh Saxena was not getting an opportunity as long as J.P. Yadav was with us.”

Railways could have won with a better batting effort in the first innings the captain felt.

“We have a well-rounded bowling attack, whether it is seamers or spinners. I was looking at a total big enough to avoid batting again. The Brabourne stadium wicket too held for five days. We put up a good fight. Catches win matches,” he said.

For both sides, the Plate struggle is over, now is the time to grab the opportunities in the season ahead, starting with the Duleep Trophy.

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