Uttarakhand had a dream start to their Ranji Trophy campaign claiming wins in their first four games - three of them with bonus points
Uttarakhand had a dream start to their Ranji Trophy campaign claiming wins in their first four games – three of them with bonus points

Uttarakhand topped the Plate group with six wins in eight matches in the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season to qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament. Next season, they will be playing in the Elite group; and for skipper Rajat Bhatia, it is a job well done for the team and the promotion he says – is well deserved. (ALSO READ: Rajat Bhatia honoured to be Uttarakhand’s first captain)

“As a team the way we played, we deserve the promotion and I am very happy about it,” Bhatia tells CricketCountry.com two days after Uttarakhand sealed qualification, beating Mizoram in the final league match. (ALSO READ: Rajat Bhatia wants Uttarakhand to continue dominance)

Uttarakhand had a dream start to their Ranji Trophy campaign claiming wins in their first four games – three of them with bonus points – yet it boiled down to the final game against Mizoram to stave off stiff competition from Bihar, who finished second in the group with 40 point. Uttarakhand had 44.

“Yes, there were times we were lucky; like the the last game we played was against a weaker team,” admits Bhatia. “But, one of our games in Puducherry – that match was abandoned – we didn’t expect that to happen. Bihar played most of their matches to their strength and that’s why they did well. We played pretty well at the start, and in the middle we missed out against Nagaland (draw), but in the end, I knew, and the team knew, that we deserved to top the group.”

In the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2018-19, it was a loss to Bihar – their only loss of the campaign – that pushed them to second spot in the points table, but Uttarakhand returned the favour in kind beating Bihar in their first came of the Ranji Trophy by a comprehensive 10-wicket margin. Bihar didn’t lose a game after that, yet could not catch up to Uttarakhand.

“You know, every match was crucial for us, says Bhatia, adding, “not just the Bihar game, but against them we knew what their strength (spin) was and we played to our strength (pace). We had grassy wicket and we expected big thing from our fast bowlers and they delivered.

“And credit to them, they took all 20 wickets in one and half days.”

In that match, Bihar were knocked over for 60 and 169, with right-arm pacer Deepak Dhapola claiming 6/13 and 3/48, while fellow right-arm pacers Sunny Rana and Dhanraj Sharma bagged the remaining 11 wickets.

While youngsters came to the fore both with the bat and bowl for Uttarakhand early on, it needed the experience of Bhatia and Vineet Saxena to take the team forward. The dup finished as the highest run-getters for the team so far.

“Job of a professional in the team is to take on the pressure,” reveals Bhatia. “Whenever there was a pressure situation I was going in (to bat). but that was my role and that is why you are there in the team. Vineet is a long-time campaigner, served Rajasthan with distinction and I expect him to play out tough situations, which he did.  

“He was waiting for one game to get a start and he got that against Meghalaya and he scored big.”

Up next, in the quarters, Bhatia’s Uttarakhand will be up against defending champions and Group A and B toppers (combined) – Vidarbha, and Bhatia feels that the boys are ready to take on the big challenge.   

 

 

“The scope for improvement is always there and we know what all we lacked in all the matches. and I always think that we should continue the hard work. The guys know what to do and who knows, if they do their job, anything can happen (against Vidarbha).

“I would say that everybody is used to the conditions now, I don’t think a pep talk is needed after every game – they have the confidence and let’s see how it goes.”

But that catch here is, Bhatia won’t be part of the team for the quarter-finals owing to prior commitments.

“I am not available for that game. I am going to the US for a biomechanics course which was decided before the start of the season,” he adds. In Bhatia’s abence, Vineet Saxena is most likely to lead the side.