Sachin Baby is Kerala cricket’s ultimate survivor. The 34-year-old is in his fourteenth year on the domestic circuit and has seen plenty of ups and downs. He has seen several transformations of the team as well and adapted to the demands of different times to stay relevant.
In the Ranji Trophy game against Rajasthan in Jaipur, the left-handed batter once again showed how crucial he is for his team. Sachin’s unbeaten 139 (217, 14×4) in the first innings helped Kerala to get close to the Rajasthan total of 337.
In the second innings, chasing an improbable 395 on the final day, for a brief while, he, along with skipper Sanju Samson, raised Kerala’s hopes of a heist. However, after Sanju’s dismissal for a 53-ball 69, Sachin stayed put at one and ensured a draw for Kerala, who reached 299/8. He finished on 81 off 139 balls (8×4, 1×6) in the second innings.
“It has been a satisfying game for me. We were coming into this game on a high after winning against Jharkhand and we did not want to let go of that momentum. A loss would not have been an ideal result for us going forward. We were definitely going for the win in between but had to retreat after that. Anyway, it’s good to leave with a hard-earned draw,” said Sachin, who now has 3769 first-class runs from 77 matches at an average of 34.26. He has scored eight centuries and 18 half-centuries.
Sachin has been in good form of late. He was the highest run-getter for Kerala in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20s with 206 runs from eight games. “I don’t think I have made any changes to my batting. For me, it’s all about following my routines and that puts me in a good mental space and allows me to perform well. Getting up early, doing meditation, visualisation etc. are things I always do regardless of whether it’s the season or off-season,” said Sachin.
“I have been part of various Kerala teams over the years and I can say that we are going from strength to strength. A lot of new players are coming up and as a senior player, it is my job to set the right example in terms of attitude and work ethic,” added Sachin, who had led Kerala to the only two knockout round entries in Ranji Trophy history — in the 2017/18 season when they played the quarterfinal and the 2018/19 season when they played the semifinal.
Sachin sees the switch to an attacking mindset as the biggest change in the way Kerala play their game. “Earlier, we used to score 200-250 runs in a day. Nowadays, we are scoring 300-350 every day. A lot of the credit should go to Dav Whatmore, under whom we started winning more matches and Tinu Yohannan, who has been carrying the process and giving the players the freedom to express themselves,” he said.
Deepak Hooda was the star for Rajasthan with two centuries in the game. The hosts secured three points courtesy of a first-innings lead while Kerala got one point.
Brief scores: Rajasthan 337 (Deepak Hooda 133, Salman Khan 74; Jalaj Saxena 3/78) 363/8 dec (Deepak Hooda 155 no, Kunal Singh Rathore 75, Abhijeet Tomar 68; Jalaj Saxena 3/93) drew with Kerala (Sachin Baby 139 no, Sanju Samson 82; Aniket Choudharay 5/85, Manav Suthar 3/87) & 299/8 (Sachin Baby 81 no, Sanju Samson 69, Rahul P 64; Manav Suthar 3/103).