This Republic day marked the start of the Ranji Trophy final of 2012-13 season. Mumbai playing in their 44th Ranji final won the Ranji Trophy for mind boggling 40th time against the first time finalist Saurashtra (in the 71 years of their Ranji history). And they won it not because the other teams were weak but because they are the best when it comes to domestic circuit.
In this commercial T20 age of cricket, where only handful spectators come for an International Test match in India, 20 years back, 18000 people witnessed history being written at Wankhede stadium. It was the final of Ranji Trophy 1991-92 between Bombay and Haryana. On one hand, powerhouse Bombay easily made to the finals, on the other hand, Haryana was on a dream run, led by Kapil Dev. What was it that made 90 percent of the people cry when the match ended?
Kapil dev won the toss and with superb knocks of 199 by Deepak Sharma and 94 by Ajay Jadeja, Haryana made 522 in the 1st innings. In reply, Bombay made a struggling 410. In the 2nd innings, Bombay bowlers (Salil Ankola and Abey Kuruvilla) lived up to their reputation and bowled out Haryana for 242. Mumbai needed 355 to win.
There was a huge crowd on the final day to see if Bombay can pull off the unthinkable. In case of draw, Bombay would have anyway lost on the basis of 1st innings lead. Bombay decided to play for win and they went for it. With only 70 overs available, Bombay’s chase was soon in tatters at 34/3. In came 18-year-old Tendulkar, and with a low height, a six off Chetan Sharma changed the course of the game and with veteran Dilip Vengsarkar at the other end, Bombay scored heavily in post lunch session. Tendulkar hit 96 off 75 balls before he got out and Bombay again faltered, losing as many as three wickets, all run-outs in being too fast to reach the target.
When last man Abey Kuruvilla walked in, Bombay still needed 50 runs. To take the pressure off, Vengsarkar hit two sixes and three fours in one over of Yogesh Bhandari, who had taken a five-for in the 1st innings. Bombay needed 3 runs off the last 14 balls. Kuruvilla flicked the ball on the legside, Lalchand Rajput, who was running for Vengsarkar ,thought the fielder would hit the stumps at the striker’s end but Kuruvilla fell short at the other end and it was all over for Bombay. Legend has it that Dilip Vengsarkar (139* off 137) cried and was the last man to leave the field.
That match is known as the greatest match in Ranji history. In those days, all big players used to play for their state sides in Ranji, unlike today where players seldom get to play due to International commitments. Ranji Trophy had lost that charm in recent seasons until Tendulkar brought the oldest domestic tournament back into news with his participation this season. One fact remains unchanged, Mumbai are still the finest team in domestic cricket.
(With inputs from Cricinfo and Wisden)