CHENNAI: To say that Jharkhand has arrived in the domestic cricket scene would be incorrect considering that they had won the national one-day championship for the Vijay Hazare Trophy back in 2011.
But the way they breezed through their group league matches in the same competition this year should make others sit up and take note of a new force. Not only did they finish their Elite Group C campaign with an all-win record (6 wins & 2 abandoned), they dominated games, found contributions from almost everyone and had individuals taking responsibility when things looked like slipping out of grip. The bunch, under the giant shadow of MS Dhoni, also showed some spunk that suggests they are ready to create their own identity.
A lot of it is displayed by young skipper Ishan Kishan, who has made 377 runs in seven innings with a strike rate of 119.30. The 20-year-old opens fire and doesn’t mind stepping out against even the quicker bowlers. “We believe we can beat any side,” says Kishan. “Other than skills and fitness, we pay attention to team bonding. We play for each other and enjoy each other’s success. What you see in the middle is the summation of these little things. It may be difficult to notice from outside, but this unity makes a difference when we go out there.”
Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem is leading the attack, having taken 21 wickets with an economy of 3.95. But it’s not just about Kishan or Nadeem. Anand Singh and Saurabh Tiwary have delivered in batting while Varun Aaron and Rahul Shukla have played important roles in bowling. Left-arm spinner Anukul Roy has hammered two fifties to go with 10 wickets. On Thursday, when they lost their top three in eight overs against Services, an out-of-form Kumar Deobrat (88) revived the innings with Tiwary (65) before Roy (58) unleashed his big hits. Chasing 290, Services needed 102 in 18 overs with eight wickets left when Jharkhand’s bowlers took charge. This has been the pattern.
They have found ways to bounce back when cornered. “What we lacked was getting together as a unit. This time we have set high standards and taken some tough selection calls. On the field, we are not just out to compete, we want to dominate. We have talented players and when playing against (traditionally) bigger teams, we see no reason not to believe in ourselves,” said Aaron. This confidence has been hallmark of the team which has no outstation players.
Chief coach Rajeev Kumar, who heads an all- Jharkhand support staff, attributes this season’s impressive run to preparation. Like Aaron, he too notices a shift in mentality. “Not that we lacked confidence but the problem was we were dependent on individuals. With emphasis on fitness, we have tried to address this issue and started playing as a team.” If they keep doing this, chances are high that players from Jharkhand will make more headlines this season. firstname.lastname@example.org