VIJAY HAZARE TROPHY, 2018
Robin Uthappa is a doubtful starter for Saurashtra for the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy © Cricbuzz
Saurashtra had a bitter-sweet Vijay Hazare semifinal outing at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Sunday (February 25). The Cheteshwar Pujara-led side successfully halted the Andhra juggernaut to set up a final date with Karnataka, but they’ll be facing a very real race against time to get their best eleven fully-fit for the Tuesday showdown.
Already struggling with pre-tournament injuries to as many as five players, Saurashtra were dealt with another blow as Robin Uthappa skipped the crucial encounter with an ankle niggle sustained in the earlier stages of the one-day competition. As the issue resurfaced, Uthappa was struggling to even run during the fielding drills ahead of the semifinal and opted for rest instead. Uthappa had previously missed the group game against Services due to the same niggle.
“It is not about IPL; there is plenty of time [for that]. He is more worried about not doing justice to this game,” Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak told media after their 59-run semifinal victory over Andhra. “He is struggling and wants to get better and [then] play.”
Saurashtra, however, were buoyed by the return of the other star attraction, Ravindra Jadeja. The India all-rounder made a memorable comeback from his injury-forced break by bailing his side out of a top-order collapse. Saurashtra were reduced to 69 for 4 inside 22 overs, after being put in to bat, before the counter-attacking 113-run partnership between Jadeja (56) and Aarpit Vasavada (58) arrested the slide and set them up for a respectable 255. Saurashtra fell a few runs short by their own admission, but defended even their sub-par total convincingly on a batting-friendly Kotla track without relying on Jadeja’s bowling.
Jadeja strained his side while attempting a run-out in Saurashtra’s must-win group game against Jharkhand on February 11. He bowled only two overs in that match but hit a match-winning century later in the 330-run chase despite being in obvious pain. At the time of the injury, he was advised not to bowl for three weeks. In the following game against Services, which Uthappa missed, Jadeja was in the eleven but did not bowl or bat as Saurashtra comfortably chased down a modest 177-run target with eights wickets to spare.
“We also can’t bowl Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) also because of the side strain, so we decided that we’ll try and push only one player to play today and not both. But for the final now we will have to think [about playing both],” Kotak said when asked about the star duo’s availability for the title clash.
Though it is abundantly clear that, provided the niggle doesn’t resurface, Jadeja will play the final as a pure batsman in order to get him back in fine condition before the 11th edition of IPL kicks off in little over a month’s time.
“I am worried that if it gets worse [then] he’s out for six weeks. Then it’s not fair to the player; then we’re being selfish. We are trying to look after them also not just trying to win [the trophy] and we hope that their replacements will do their job well. Obviously there is a difference, but so far it is working well for us,” Kotak noted.
It could be potentially disadvantageous not having Jadeja’s ten overs against an in-form Karnataka batting, led by record-breaking Mayank Agarwal, but Saurashtra aren’t getting too worked up about his red-hot form.
“There are areas where he plays his shots which I am aware of (laughs). See, in this format you can make whatever plans, but more than making plans, executing them is more important. You can know where a particular guy plays his shots, but if you fail to bowl to your field then [it’s pointless] or if he out-thinks you and does something different, then? You can have plans for every batsman but you can’t get them all out [cheaply],” Kotak signed off.