Chennai, Jan 23: Rajasthan completed formalities on the fifth and final day as they successfully defended the Ranji Trophy by virtue of first-innings lead against Tamil Nadu, at the Chepauk, on Monday.
The match was dead as a contest on the fourth day itself, when Rajasthan managed a huge 326-run first innings lead.
Rajasthan walked away with a winners' cheque of Rs 2 crore while Tamil Nadu got half that amount.
With only academic interest left in the match, Rajasthan declared at 204 for five in the second innings, leaving Tamil Nadu to bat out a few mandatory overs which would have ended the drudgery. The match was called off after the hosts had managed eight runs for the loss of two wickets in 13 overs.
The man who has turned a bunch of 'also-rans' into a gutsy domestic outfit is undoubtedly Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
With back-to-back domestic titles under his belt, Kanitkar will certainly now be remembered as one of the finest domestic captains in recent times rather than a 'one-shot wonder' which has been his claim to fame for past 12 years.
Kanitkar, who became a journeyman cricketer six seasons back when his own state Maharashtra dumped him, though, admitted that the title should be attributed to "a bit of luck and loads of hardwork" that his boys put in.
"It's an amazing feeling. At the group stage, we had a few results going our way. We won a few matches and then a combination of favourable results got us in the knock-out. We played superb cricket after that," Kanitkar stated at the post-match presentation ceremony.
For the 37-year-old Kanitkar, the biggest satisfaction has been winning all the away matches in the knock-out stage.
Rajasthan beat Hyderabad in latter's den while they won their semifinal against Haryana at Lahli which has always been considered as a tough proposition. And the icing on the cake was beating Tamil Nadu at the Chepauk.
"It means a lot to me as we have won a quite a few away games. We have stuck to a plan and got the results. Also the bench strength has been great. A youngster like Rituraj Singh has been a revelation. Also our coach Amit Asawa and the rest of the support staff, the managers have all contributed to this success," Kanitkar said.
Even rival captain Laxmipathy Balaji was graceful in defeat as he conceded that Rajasthan were deserving winners.
"We were definitely not upto the mark in the final. The pitch was a bit slow but no complaints. I have never been a firm believer that toss can be a deciding factor. It all depends on skill and the better team won.
"But it has been a very good journey and we can take a lot of positives from the tournament. R Aushik Srinivas has come up well and he will certainly a learn a lot more in the years to come."
Man of the match Vineet Saxena said that his double century couldn't have come at a better time than in the finals.
"Full credit to Tamil Nadu bowlers as they didn't give away any easy runs. We had a good opening partnership. Our plan was to stay at the wicket and bat as long as possible. We knew that if we can bat long enough, it will be an advantage when we are bowling second. This has been my best season and this knock was a special one as I got it in the finals."
Brief Scores: Rajasthan (1st innings) 621 all out in 245 overs (Vineet Saxena 257, Aakash Chopra 94, Hrishikesh Kanitkar 67, Robin Bist 57, RR Parida 40, Rituraj Singh 45, Aushik Srinivas 4/192, Sunny Gupta 3/127, J Kaushik 3/91) and (2nd innings) 204/5 declared in 77 overs(Robin Bist 92, RR Parida 43 not out, R Prasanna 3/31) drew with Tamil Nadu (1st innings) 295 all out in 102.4 overs (Dinesh Karthik 150, R Prasanna 44, Rituraj Singh 4/76, Pankaj Singh 2/58, S Mathur 2/53) and (2nd innings) 8/2 in 13 overs (Gajendra Singh 2/5).