For a period of four months, Cheteshwar Pujara was the unstoppable force in cricket. Australia could not dislodge him as his three centuries in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney helped India win a series in Australia for the first-time ever. After conquering Australia Down Under, Pujara returned to the country and looked to help Saurashtra break their Ranji Trophy heartbreak. The right-hander hit a fifty to help Saurashtra chase down 372 against Uttar Pradesh in the fourth innings, the highest-ever chase in the Ranji Trophy. In the semi-final, his century helped Saurashtra beat Karnataka in a tough chase as they entered the final. It seemed that Pujara was set to give Saurashtra glory. However, one man ended his dream. It was Aditya Sarwate, the left-arm orthodox spinner.
What Australia, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka could not do, Sarwate did it in both innings and he got the one man who could have given Saurashtra glory cheaply. At tea on day 2, Sarwate produced a delivery that spun away and Pujara edged it low to first slip where Jaffer took the catch. On day 4, the title was sealed in grand style for Vidarbha as Sarwate trapped Pujara LBW for 0. His haul of 11/157 not only put him in an elite list, it made Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal the 11th captain to claim two successive Ranji Trophy titles.
For Sarwate, getting the big wicket of Pujara is only the tip of his contributions which have boosted Vidarbha. His 49 and partnerships with the tail ensured Saurashtra had to chase over 200 on a difficult wicket. His 55 wickets made him the leading wicket-taker for Vidarbha this season. If the likes of Wasim Jaffer, Fazal and Ganesh Satish were the pillars of the batting, Sarwate was their chief enforcer with the ball along with Akshay Wakhare and Umesh Yadav.
Sarwate joined Jehangir Khot, CS Nayudu, Padmakar Shivalkar, Abdul Ismail and Bhagwath Chandrasekhar to have taken a 10-wicket haul in the final. Nayudu achieved the feat twice and for two different teams while Khot was the first to achieve it in 1941/42 Ranji Trophy season. Chandrasekhar was the last when he picked up 12/81 to give Karnataka glory in the 1977/78 season when they defeated Uttar Pradesh in the final. Shivalkar holds the record for the best figures in a final when he took match figures of 13/34, including eight wickets in the first innings as Tamil Nadu were routed by Mumbai.
Vidarbha’s glory is thanks to a collective effort but Sarwate played a major role. The achievement is staggering considering that he had to overcome plenty of personal loss on the quest to glory. At a young age, his father was paralysed after suffering a major accident in Mumbai. Overcoming the loss, Sarwate completed his education and secured a diploma in financial management. “He has seen so many struggles in life. In personal life with his father and then on the cricket field also. But he was so focussed – and all that trouble matured him early. He understands life. The accident changed him completely. That’s why when any young boy consults him, he always tells them to focus on studies,” Sarwate’s mother Anushree told in an exclusive chat to the Indian Express during the Ranji Trophy final in Jamtha.
Sarwate struggled for recognition but he finally made his First Class debut at the age of 26 and he has been a pillar of Vidarbha’s resurgence since, being part of two Ranji Trophy winning squads. Here is hoping that Sarwate can go up and get the recognition that he truly deserves.