At the start of the Indian domestic cricket 2017-18 season, who would have thought Vidarbha had a chance at any of the domestic titles, let alone the biggest of all – Ranji Trophy. The spirited Vidarbha put strong performances one after the other and proved why they deserved to be crowned the Ranji Trophy champions.
They would not have done it without Rajneesh Gurbani. Gurbani, a wiry fast bowler who swings the red ball like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and bowls in the bracket of 130-135 kph, bowled his heart out to claim 39 wickets in 6 games in the season – at an impressive bowling average of 17.12 and a ridiculously low striking rate of picking wickets every 33 balls. The Vidarbha bowler finished the Ranji season as the second leading wicket-taker.
An engineer by qualification, Gurbani broke into Vidarbha's team in the 2016-17 season, on the back of strong performances in the state's Under-19 and Under-23 tournaments. In his second domestic season, Gurbani became Vidarbha's bowling spearhead.
On the road to Vidarbha's maiden Ranji Trophy final, Gurbani snared five five-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket haul in only 6 matches. His exploits include five-fors in each innings of the semi-final against Karnataka and a career-best 7 for 68 in the big final.
Most Wickets in Ranji Trophy 2017-18 Season
|Player||Team||Matches (Innings)||Wickets||Bowling Average||5/10 wicket haul|
|Jalaj S Saxena||Kerala||7 (14)||44||17.11||3/2|
|Rajneesh Gurbani||Vidarbha||6 (12)||39||17.12||5/1|
|Ashoke Dinda||Bengal||8 (13)||35||20.20||3/1|
“It is a fast bowler's dream to take a hat-trick and a five-wicket haul in the finals, so obviously it is a special feeling. To be frank, I was not aware I was on a hat-trick. I was not thinking about taking it, but I was bowling every delivery with the intent of taking a wicket.”
– Gurbani after taking a hat-trick in the Ranji final
The express bowler did not stop there. In the ongoing Irani Cup, he has bowling returns of 10-2-31-4 (at the time of writing), on the track where all the others toiled to pick wickets. Indeed, he is one for the future.
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