It was just fitting that Himachal had to wait in chaos.
It was fitting that Rishi Dhawan was in the middle of that confusion.
It was probably fitting that Prashant Chopra was the first man to run in once the confirmation came along.
It was one of the greatest days in the history of Indian domestic cricket where you know the hope of a brighter generation can take a backseat and you would enjoy the spectacle of cricket. The jubilation of underdogs and what it takes to be a perennial struggler yet be a glorious overachiever, even for a moment.
Himachal Pradesh are the new Vijay Hazare Trophy champions, beating powerhouse Tamil Nadu by 11 runs at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.
You would be living under the rock not to know that Tamil Nadu have created one of the greatest monopolies in domestic white-ball cricket. The way Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar have marshaled the side to glory in the last five seasons and made the state a pipeline of sorts for the IPL teams is a story worth visiting in detail.
But this is the moment for Himachal. A cricketing backwaters, known for the most picturesque grounds in the country and being home to one of the most powerful men in Indian cricket - erstwhile BCCI President Anurag Thakur. Currently, his brother Arun Dhumal leads the BCCI Treasury and has become a frontline spokesperson for the board. While the state has since been in the right reasons for its governance and growth in infrastructure, cricket wasn’t able to break the shackle.
Himachal Pradesh needed its own Jharkhand 2011 moment or Gujarat 2015. Nothing less would have sufficed.
Rishi Dhawan knew that. Prashant Chopra knew that. Mayank Dagar knew that. As did Shubham Arora. The landscape of Indian cricket was about to change as the hilly North Indian state provided the contest of Boxing Day - the most glorious one indeed.
How Himachal beat the odds and eventually secured their first National Trophy is cricket needs a deep dive. But Rishi Dhawan provided a sneak peek into it. “There is a lot of hard work involved in this. Also, the administration has improved the facilities in the last few years, which has also helped us a lot. It's a combined effort,” Dhawan said in the presentation.
While Dhawan was right in terms of identifying the effort of everyone involved, in more ways than one, this was an effort orchestrated by him from the front. In 8 matches, Dhawan scored 458 runs at an average of 76.33 while picking 17 wickets at an average of 23.35. It is not common for an all-rounder to achieve what Dhawan did - the best performer with bat and ball - but he also had Chopra to thank for his valiant efforts.
In terms of batting, Chopra, one of Indian cricket’s lost stories, who had promised a lot before fizzling out to the domestic conundrum, went toe to toe with Dhawan. His 456 runs at 57.00 was a phenomenal achievement. Sure enough, he found run-scoring hard to come by when it comes to scoring fast enough, but that allowed others to play flexibly around him.
Take the semi-final encounter against Services for example. Despite being stuck to a rabbit hole, Chopra came off and allowed Dhawan to play his shots. They eventually ended up with 281 and slammed the door on the face of Services later.
If it was the duo of Dhawan and Chopra were the stars in the semis, Shubham Arora, the season debutant, made the final all the more interesting with his mighty effort. Nothing succeeds like success and knowing many eyeballs are fixed on him, Arora played the innings of his life. If Dinesh Karthik made Tamil Nadu believe after a disastrous start, Arora’s knock breathed a new lease of life to Himachal’s innings, and eventually, it was capped off by a Dhawan special cameo, and those who have watched it wouldn’t be forgotten by any Himachal follower in their lifetime.
It was such a kind of day. You would know Tamil Nadu are unfortunate in some ways and despite doing exceedingly well, they haven’t won a single Vijay Hazare Trophy in the last five years. But on a day the bluster comes to naught, a new story was written - in Gold.