Having conceded a sizeable first-innings lead, Vidarbha pulled up their socks in the second innings to set Karnataka a modest 198-run target in the Ranji Trophy 2017-18 semi-final. With their task cut, the Faiz Fazal-led team took the field on Day 4 and put up an inspired performance to keep the match hanging in the balance at the end of the day. Rajneesh Gurbani, who had claimed four wickets to leave Karnataka on 111 for seven at stumps on fourth day, returned to bowl his side to a nail-biting five-run win on Day 5.
With his maiden ten wicket haul (5/94 and 7/68), Gurbani took Vidarbha to their maiden Ranji Trophy final.
“I was asleep by 9 pm (after Day 4) having played the whole day and I woke up at 12:30 am thinking it was 6 am. After I freshened up and looked out of the window it was still dark. I went back to sleep again and was up by 4:30 ... excited to bowl. I knew I would start the day with the ball for us. I was ready by 5 - 5:30 am and was waiting to bowl. I was excited and nervous.”
Asked about their plans given that Karnataka bat deep, the bowler said, “(Actually) They had more pressure because they had to make the runs. Our plan was to keep bowling maidens and force them to make mistakes. I was not thinking about getting a wicket; at first, I just wanted to bowl a maiden. Then the plan was that Umesh (Yadav) bhai and I will bowl in partnership and apply pressure from both ends.”
However, Vinay Kumar went after the Vidarbha bowling in the morning and had briskly taken his team to 141. Abhimanyu Mithun, who replaced him in the middle, too counter-attacked and Karnataka seemed to be cruising to the target. “When they started to attack, I was thinking that the more they attack it would become easier for me to take a wicket. Their main players didn’t go for the runs so they were already under pressure. They had nothing to lose with three wickets in hand they were trying to hit us for runs. But when Vinay Kumar got out that gave us another chance and then again Mithun started hitting us but we were just patient. I was thinking that they will now attack us and so I will cramp him. I knew if no runs come for 4-5 balls he will go for a big shot and the same happened.”
With six runs left, Gurbani once again had the ball in his hand. Speaking about it the bowler said, “I was actually trying to keep my excitement under control more than the nervousness. I had to give my hundred per cent and hope that the results come.”
Reflecting on his 12 wickets, the bowler picked Karun Nair’s wicket in the second innings as they most important one. “There was a partnership forming between Karun Nair and CM Gautam. In the first innings also, they had a crucial 139-run partnership and I wanted to end it and I got Karun Nair out. And again today (Day 5) morning the wicket of Vinay Kumar was a crucial one.
Discussing his bowling, Gurbani said, “The advantage that I find in my bowling is that I get swing, so I just want to put the ball in the right areas. If I do that I know the ball will swing the way I want, and I try to keep it as near to the stump (on the off-stump and fourth stump) as I can.”
Reflecting on his maiden ten-wicket haul and the stage he got it on, Gurbani said “It is a dream come true. I always wanted to take a ten-wicket haul in a match. I didn’t know it would come in a semi-final match at such a crucial moment. When I took the ten-wicket haul I wasn’t aware of it. I wasn’t thinking about the number of wickets I was taking. All I wanted was to take wickets and hope that my team would win.”
While speaking about bowling with Umesh Yadav he said, “He is a big inspiration for us I know him as a person and I really want to be like him; humble and helpful. During play, he does not say much about technicalities or anything, but helps me stay calm and keeps encouraging.”
Speaking about the captain and coach Chandrakant Pandit, he said,” Both are constantly guiding me where to bowl and how to bowl. The coach is so involved that it inspires me to do something for the team. Our coach is very emotional when he sees the team in trouble and seeing my coach suffer makes me uneasy, so I have to do it for him.
“When we started the season, we were focused on winning the trophy our focus was on becoming champions and nothing else. When we face a problem, we are always together as a team. And from the first match we have been following a particular routine and that has also helped us carry the momentum,” he said while looking back on the season so far.