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Godrej Infotech: Champs Again!
Wednesday, 12 February, 2003 was a golden day for Godrej Infotech Ltd. (GIL), who won the Godrej Golden Jubilee Cricket Tournament for the second year in succession, becoming the only team to do so in the history of the tournament. It was a dream come true for the gritty GIL cricketers and their supporters. Their success, although achieved on the last ball of the tournament, was memorable in view of the fact that the GIL team were playing without their star performer Prasad Kunte and captain Ajit Joshi.
On the way to the semi-finals, GIL topped Group A, beating teams like Furniture-B, Godrej Properties & Investments Ltd., Precision Equipment Division-B and Storwel-B. The semi-final this year was played on a round-robin league basis with each of the four group winners (Group A: GIL, Group B: Godrej Appliances Ltd.-A, Group C: Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. and Group D: Godrej Appliances Ltd.-B), playing each other once. Although GIL lost by a couple of runs to Appliances-A, it won the remaining two matches handsomely to set the title clash against a formidable Appliances-B.
The setting for the grand finale was perfect. Supporters of both teams had gathered in large numbers at the picturesque hillside colony ground. GIL, being the most popular team, had the added advantage of crowd support. The presence of J.N. Godrej, A.B. Godrej and other members of the Godrej family, E.J. Kalwachia and many other top executives of the Company encouraged the players as well as the spectators.
Abhijeet Karambelkar, who captained GIL in the final, won the toss and opted to bat first in a 12 overs-a-side match. Appliances-B bowled well and runs were hard to come by. The pressure of scoring runs in the absence of Prasad Kunte soon told on GIL’s batsmen. Wickets fell at regular intervals and even a modest score of 50 seemed a distant dream. Abhijeet held one end, and finally exhausted himself out for 27 runs. His efforts, though, ensured that GIL had at least 57 runs on the board, a total many felt was at least 15 runs short of placing the team in the comfort zone.
The opposition certainly thought it would be easy to score 57 runs. But the young GIL team had other ideas! They had confidence in their attack (Dhananjay Joshi, Gajendra Pawar, Manoj Dhoke and captain Abhijeet Karambelkar) and faith in their fielding ability. More than anything, it was the zeal to win that drove them to perform at their best.
Manoj and Dhananjay bowled a good line and length initially to restrict Appliances-B batsmen, but once their batsmen settled down, runs started flowing. “Place and take singles or twos” was the mantra of the evening and Appliances-B did precisely that. By the end of the eighth over, they required just 25 runs from 24 balls with seven wickets in hand … and victory seemed well within sight.
It was alarm bells for GIL. Their supporters egged them on to do their best and they responded well with a couple of run-outs and a splendid catch at deep by Amit D’Souza. Still, Appliances-B needed 15 runs from 12 balls with four wickets in hand. Abhijeet’s superb bowling in the 11th over turned the match in favour of GIL. He claimed two crucial wickets, including that of Subhash Sansare, ceding only two runs to the batsmen. It was too much for the tail-enders to get 13 runs off the last six balls. Manicken tried his best to steer Appliances-B to victory, and it all came down to 4 off the last ball … a la Miandad. Could he, could he not?
But it was all in vain, and Appliances-B could manage only 54, giving GIL a 3-run victory. GIL supporters thronged the ground to congratulate their heroes. It was a close, gripping encounter and the side that kept its cool eventually won.
It was a satisfying victory both for GIL cricketers and their supporters. Captain Abhijeet Karambelkar was declared Man of the Match. Prasad Kunte (who scored 320 runs in the tournament, but missed the crucial final) was Man of the Tournament as well as Best Batsman of the tournament. Dhananjay Joshi was the Best Bowler of the tournament. All the team members were awarded medals. The most exciting moment came when Abhijeet accepted the trophy from J.N. Godrej, and raised it to the crowd amidst cheers. Days of hard work and practice had finally been rewarded. Team GIL were champions again.