By Sidharth Gulati
Skipper Faiz Fazal feels that Vidarbha are well-equipped to defend their Ranji title as they prepare to face Uttarakhand in the first quarter-final in Nagpur on Tuesday.
Vidarbha, who defeated Delhi to lift their maiden Ranji crown last season, haven’t lost a single game in the 2018-19 season. With three wins and five draws, they finished at the top spot in the combined points table (Elite Group ‘A’ and ‘B’).
With the tournament entering its business end, the 33-year-old Fazal expressed confidence in his team’s ability to handle big match pressure.
“We have a very good chance (of defending the title). It wasn’t a fluke (Vidarbha’s win last season) and we are here to prove it,” he said in an interview.
“I think we have all bases covered. Overall, it has been a collective effort from the team so far and I’m proud of it.”
‘No communication from selectors’
Despite being Vidarbha’s top performer in the last few years, Fazal -- who scored a half-century in his only ODI (against Zimbabwe) -- hasn’t got a chance in the five-day format.
In 110 matches, he has hit 7,680 runs at an average of 42.43 with 19 centuries. This season, he has scored 622 runs in eight games and has been one of the main reasons why Vidarbha have crossed the 500-run mark thrice.
Asked if selectors have had a word with him, Fazal said: “No communication so far. To be honest, it doesn’t bother much. I love the game and that is the biggest motivation. That’s it. I just want to play cricket for as long as I can. With that being said, getting an India Test cap would be a dream come true.”
Asked about his side’s preparation for the clash against Uttarakhand, he said: “We had a couple of days off. The schedule has been gruelling. So the management decided it was good to give players a break.”
‘Lucky to have Jaffer’
Fazal lavished praise on Wasim Jaffer, saying it has been a pleasure to share the dressing room with one of the most consistent performers in India’s domestic circuit.
With 763 runs in eight games including three centuries, the 40-year-old Jaffer is Vidarbha’s highest run-getter this season. Last year, he scored 595 runs in nine matches.
Jaffer, who moved to Vidarbha in 2015 after 19 seasons with Mumbai, has 18,873 first-class runs to his name in 250 matches and it’s fair to say that he’s getting better with each season.
“He (Jaffer) is a legend. We are lucky to have him. He’s like a school in himself and we are here to learn from him. I hope he stays with us with a long time,” Fazal said.
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