Whether it’s Team India, domestic cricket or even women’s cricket, Gujarat cricketers are making their presence felt everywhere. At present, players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah are indispensable members of Indian team. In fact, Jasprit and Hardik have become so important to Team India’s plans in recent times. Apart from them, cricketers like Akshar Patel, Jaydev Unadkat, Priyank Panchal, Krunal Pandya and Deepak Hooda, to name a few, have continued to impress the selectors. Add to it the recent impressive performances from even the under-19 cricketers and women cricketers from the state, and you have a cricket nursery that is well-equipped to serve Indian cricket well for years. As Anshuman Gaekwad puts it, “With the kind of talent that Gujarat has, the state can have an IPL team of its own. Others will find it really tough to beat us!”
Patronage continues even today
Gujarat has continued to welcome cricketers from other states with open arms, and the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Robin Uthappa, RP Singh, Ajitesh Argal and Radha Yadav (women’s cricket) have shared a mutually beneficial association with the different domestic teams in the state. Ambati Rayudu, who played for Team Baroda recently, said, “It was a huge honour for me to represent Baroda because it has always been one of the top sides in the country.”
The support extended to the game by the erstwhile royal families in the state has played a big role in the promotion of cricket in the state. Baroda's royal family played a big role in promoting cricket. Vadodara's DK Gaekwad, who captained Team India in 1959, said, cricketers who came from outside were given good jobs and players like CS Nayudu and Vijay Hazare, Chandu Borde and Hemu Adhikari were an inspiration. In fact, royal patronage also played a big role in the development of cricket in Saurashtra. According to Anshuman Gaekwad, “The royal patronage for cricket in Gujarat helped in forming a cricket culture, and we continue to reap the benefits even today. Some of India’s best cricketers have played for our teams in domestic cricket which is very encouraging.” Some other names who benefited by playing here include Mohinder Amarnath, Gogumal Kishenchand and Jayasinghrao Ghorpade.
Saurashtra boys on a high
In recent times, cricketers from Saurashtra are making waves at the highest level. While Cheteshwar Pujara has been hailed by Virat Kohli as India’s best test batsman, Ravindra Jadeja is ranked number two in the ICC’s list of all rounders in test cricket. Pacer Jaydev Unadkat caused a bidding war among franchisees at the IPL 2018 auctions. Talking about it, Bhavnagar boy Harvik Desai, a key member of the World Cup winning under-19 Indian side this year, said, “Saurashtra has excellent infrastructure and facilities for budding cricketers and that is the reason why the region is producing so many quality cricketers consistently. Besides, we have some great role models to look up to.”
Veterans from the state are confident that our cricketers will continue to do well. Former Indian wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia shares, “We will continue to produce quality cricketers. In Vadodara, the practice sessions continue throughout the year, which is a big help. Also, playing on turf wickets helps in preparing better. Youngsters in Gujarat are also inspired when they see so many former cricketers who have played for India.”
Even players from Ahmedabad are making their presence felt. Jasprit Bumrah has emerged as a superstar in all formats (he is the number one bowler in ICC’s ODI rankings), and Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel and all-rounder Akshar Patel continue to be consistent, doing well for Team India in the limited opportunities that they have got. Also, Priyank Panchal has been doing well consistently in domestic cricket and for India A. The Pandya brothers, along with Deepak Hooda have continued Vadodara’s rich cricketing legacy.
Gen next is ready
Apart from Harvik, cricketers from the under-19 teams and other age-group teams are also doing well, including Vadodara’s Ninad Rathva and Baroda under-19 captain Mohit Mongia. Ninad, who even scored a century on his Ranji Trophy debut, shares, “Vadodara, which has such a great cricketing legacy, is the place to be for any budding cricketer. I owe a special thanks to Kiran More sir, who has always supported and motivated me.” Players who have been in World Cup winning sides include Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel (2011 WC), and Irfan Pathan (2007 T20 World Championships).
Women cricketers from the state, and especially those from Baroda are doing Gujarat proud too. While Radha Yadav (Baroda skipper) has already played for Team India, Tarannum Pathan has played for India A. Besides, cricketers like Yastika Bhatia, Jaya Mohite, Hrutvisha Patel and Renuka Chaudhari have impressed selectors with their performances. Vinit Wadkar, former coach of the Baroda women’s team, says, “The girls have been really impressive and the likes of Yastika and Hrutvisha have the potential to make it to the Indian team in about a couple of years”.