Gurbani scalped 12 wickets in the Ranji Trophy semi-final to guide Vidarbha to their maiden final (Image courtesy: PTI)
Gurbani scalped 12 wickets in the Ranji Trophy semi-final to guide Vidarbha to their maiden final (Image courtesy: PTI)

Rajneesh Gurbani has played 5 out of his 9 First-Class games this season. His record reads 44 wickets at 19.36. 27 of his 44 wickets have come in the last 3 matches. The 24-year-old fast bowler gave Vidarbha its greatest moment as the side marched into Ranji Trophy final for the first time in their cricketing chronicles. Gurbani s 5 for 94 and 7 for 68 dashed eight-time champions Karnataka s hopes as they fell 5 runs short of another Ranji Trophy final as Eden Gardens witnessed another cricket classic.

Karnataka were 7 down for 111 on Day Four but they had Vinay Kumar and Shreyas Gopal at the crease. Abhimanyu Mithun was still to bat. They needed 87, but stranger things have happened in cricket.

Gurbani admitted that he was nervous throughout the night before. I was quite nervous all throughout the night, first woke up at 12.30 thought it was 6 AM, again I woke up at 4.30 couldn’t sleep any more got up at 5 AM and got ready within 6. We were determined to reach the finals this year after having lost in the quarter-finals twice.

But it was not about nerves either. There was a plan too. He got Vinay Kumar to poke outside off stump. Mithun was out miscuing a big hit and Sreenath Aravind edged one moving away. Gurbani found movement and the morning conditions in Kolkata helped.

There were tears of joys around. Gurbani s eyes welled up when he saw his coach Chandrakant Pandit ecstatic.

Ranji Trophy 2017-18, semi-final: Vidarbha clinch thriller against Karnataka, reach maiden final
Ranji Trophy 2017-18, semi-final: Vidarbha clinch thriller against Karnataka, reach maiden final

I got quite emotional after getting the final wicket and seeing Chandu sir s reaction, said Gurbani, a qualified Civil Engineer. All the credit to how I am bowling goes to Chandrakant Pandit-Sir and Subroto Banerjee-Sir. Both of them supported me well and brought about some skill changes. Chandrakant sir used to make me bowl at one spot for an entire day. He used to make me bowl on demand: a whole day of inswingers, a whole day of outswingers or hitting the off stump. This sort of match simulation meant that when I came out, I could bowl any of these deliveries at any instant.

Chandu-Sir and Umesh-bhaiya s roles

Gurbani passed his BE with 68 per cent. He had only played his first List A game after completing his final semester where he secured 80 per cent. Gurbani is hailed for his intelligence. Prashant Vaidya, former India pacer and VCA’s incumbent Vice-President, puts him in the Bhuvneshwar Kumar mould.

Gurbani s natural ball is the one that swings away but he can hit the same corridor and move the odd one in. He also turned the tides against Kerala with his disciplined efforts. Gurbani s following quotes explain how a coach can bring the best out of a player, and how trust plays a role.

When Chandrakant-Sir came into the side, we all wondered how he is. And we were all advised that he will either make you do it or make you leave cricket.

It was in sync with how I am personally either I grow in cricket or I leave cricket. I don’t want to be stuck in between. Of course, he shouts at me, and I want him to shout at me so I don’t get too carried away. Watching his emotions when the team doesn’t perform he can’t sleep. Though performance is not in his hands, seeing him being so involved and invested inspires us, Gurbani was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.

Coming back to the semi-final, anxiety at one point was getting better of Gurbani: When I went to the ground, coach sir motivated me and calmed my nerves somewhat. On the field, when wickets were not coming, I was feeling a bit restless and then my captain, senior teammates and Chandu-Sir told me to calm down.

Though Umesh Yadav was ineffective in comparison, it was him who dismissed the in-form Mayank Agarwal in both the innings. For Gurbani, bowling alongside Umesh was a dream-come-true moment: The presence of Umesh Yadav was a big help for me and it was my dream to open the bowling with Umesh-bhaiya. From one end, he was bowling fast and watching him bowl, I was feeling very relaxed. Umesh Yadav is my idol and he is my favourite fast bowler.

Vidarbha will play Delhi in the title clash at Indore from December 29, and Gurbani s form will hold the key for the first-timer s chances.