Ranji Trophy has ended, this time we have a new Champion as Gujarat beat the 41-time champion Mumbai in the hard-fought final. During the final, Gujarat was on top until the third innings, when youngster, Prithvi Shaw started smacking their attack to all parts of the Holkar Stadium. He was looking set to take away the advantage of Gujarat’s 100-run lead. But somehow Gujrat stopped him, but with a defensive strategy.
Gujarat's bowlers kept bowling outside the off-stump. This was very frustrating for batsmen and they were forced to play some rash shots. This plan worked wonders and Mumbai’s run rate dropped down and they removed dangerous looking Prithvi Shaw with the very same strategy.
This idea came from the former Indian bowler RP Singh, who has become their ‘bowling captain’ since he migrated to Gujarat from Uttar Pradesh two years ago. RP Singh bagged 18 wickets in the 5 matches with the average of 25.44 including a 6-fer in the semifinal clash against Jharkhand. His pace may have slowed down but is still capable of troubling the batsmen with his swing.
Left-arm pacer played 14 Tests, 58 ODIs and 10 T20Is for the national side. Uttar Pradesh lad played for 10 years for his home team before he moved to Gujarat. As his wife is from Ahmedabad, he chose Gujarat as his team in the domestic circuit. He helped his team to clinch their maiden title in Ranji Trophy.
RP Singh had a chat with Times of India after the final where he discussed how he keeps himself motivated and what the Ranji title means to him, he said, "At one point, it's important to play as a professional. I had played many years for my state (UP), and I played in a final for them too. Unfortunately, we didn't win on that occasion. Since I've come into this team, I shared my experiences, whatever I know, with the players. Touchwood, the boys listened to me, implemented my advice, and the results are there."
Speaking on his role of mentor, RP said, "Coaching is always an important part of the game. I've also learnt a lot of
things during a match from the likes Anil bhai (Anil Kumble) and Zaheer Khan. If you give inputs to a bowler
during a game, and it clicks with him, then it really helps the bowler. For
example, Chintan Gaja (who took six wickets in the final in the second
innings), was training with me in the nets as he wasn't playing in the earlier
games. I told him quite a few things, and he implemented it. My experience
helps me to understand the match situation and then guide my bowling partners
accordingly. You can't always attack, but look to contain runs too. Mumbai always looks to contain runs, and we used that tactic against them. But
it worked because our bowlers listened to me."
RP has also spent time with Team India's speedster Jasprit Bumrah, "He's a unique bowler, with a different action. He's already very good. I don't need to tell him much, but at times I guide him on which length to bowl."
When asked how he keeps himself motivated despite having no realistic chance of playing again for the country, he said, "I absolutely love this game, that's why I'm still playing it. Didn't you see the fact that I bowled 50 overs in the final!"
RP Singh also appreciated Parthiv Patel the captain and the batsman for his efforts, "Maybe because he stands behind the stumps all the time, he understands the game well, which is important. There are many times in cricket when you can't survive, you've to score runs. That's how this game works, you get runs and you win. That's what he focused on during his hundred in the second innings. He has worked hard to build this team, inducting players from the Gujarat under-19 side. We're seeing the results of this effort have come after five-six years, maybe they should've come earlier. Hopefully, we'll continue to play well."
On the current crop of fast bowlers in Team India, RP said, "Both Yadav and Shami can all bowl quick, and have impressive aggression. 'Bhuvi' posses swing. It's an excellent combination."
RP refused to compare the Ranji title with the IPL title he won while playing for Deccan Chargers, "Both victories mean a lot. When DC won that title, it was a different challenge, because we were bottom-placed in the previous season, and we made a comeback. At Gujarat, we had won the limited overs tournament in the previous seasons. This Ranji triumph shows that we're a top team now. We're no lesser than any side in domestic cricket. No doubt, Mumbai have a very good cricketing culture. They plan well and they have a lot of talent. We've learnt a lot from Mumbai while playing against them, and will still need to learn a lot from them."
He finally concluded on the note that he doesn't think much about why he wasn't recalled to Team India, "I really don't know what happened. I'm just enjoying playing the game right now. I honestly never think about it."