Back in February 2019, Vidarbha, in their quest to become only the 6th team ever to retain the Ranji Trophy, battled Saurashtra in the final at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur. The hosts piled up 312 in the 1st innings and looked primed to gain a huge first-innings lead.
However, superb rear-guard action led by Jaydev Unadkat trimmed the lead to just five runs. The 3rd innings saw the home team grind its way to 200 and in the process, set the visitors a formidable target of 206 in the fourth innings.
Yet, like many a time in the 2018-19 season, the game saw itself manoeuvring into a tantalising situation. Saurashtra lost a couple of wickets early but with Cheteshwar Pujara and Sheldon Jackson to follow, they still harboured hopes of chasing down the total.
At that very juncture, Vidarbha skipper, Faiz Fazal turned to one of his most trusted lieutenants, Aditya Sarwate. And akin to countless occasions before, the left-arm spinner turned the game on its head by trapping Pujara in front in the 9th over.
The dismissal of the right-hander proved to be the final nail in Saurashtra’s coffin and the hosts marched on to their 2nd successive triumph.
Courtesy his exploits in the final, which included an 11-wicket haul and a gritty 49 in the 2nd essay, Sarwate clinched the Man of the Match award. And in doing so, the all-rounder reinforced the belief that he is indeed the man for crunch situations.
Born on 10th December, 1989, Aditya completed his schooling from RS Mundle school in Nagpur. A passionate cricketer throughout his formative years, the all-rounder made his Vidarbha U-19 bow in 2007 before notching up several appearances for different age group sides. However, his rise through the ranks wasn’t rosy, but instead, sprinkled with its fair share of thorns.
At a very young age, Sarwate’s father met with a brutal accident which left him handicapped. Yet, his mother always ensured that he was provided the right environment and all the adequate resources necessary to flourish on the field.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, he revealed: “My family and especially my mother have been with me throughout my journey and have provided me with everything that I could’ve asked for, be it in terms of motivation or support. Never once was I told to forego my passion and I was allowed to live my dream to the fullest.”
He also added: “A huge chunk of the credit for my success has to go to my mother and whatever I have achieved so far has been only due to her.”
Moreover, he went on to add that the fighting spirit displayed by his mother throughout his upbringing played a major role in moulding him into the individual and cricketer he is today. A cricketer with a never-say-die attitude, Aditya has specialised in holding his nerve in tense situations and persevering until the end to achieve his goals.
The above attributes came to the fore when he encountered a sticky patch in the mid-2010s. In his teens, Sarwate showcased himself to be a trustworthy all-rounder at the U-19 and U-23 levels. However, once he became ineligible to represent those categories in 2013, he faced an initial struggle to break through into the senior side.
The 2014 season then saw him sidelined with a spate of injuries, with his back and groin causing him the most grief. Yet, a year later, he found himself among the region’s elite and rubbing shoulders with the nation’s best at the Ranji level.
However, things could’ve been different had he not gone to play an invitational tournament organised by the KSCA at the start of the 2015-16 season.
On being quizzed about the turning point in his career, Sarwate promptly pointed to the above competition and said: “The KSCA tournament really helped me get into the senior side and my performances there enabled me to get selected.”
The all-rounder scored vital runs at crucial junctures throughout the tournament and also ended up scalping the highest number of wickets for Vidarbha.
He returned to Nagpur and then performed magnificently in the Bapuna Cup, the trial tournament conducted for the senior team hopefuls. Sarwate ended up bagging the ‘Best All-Rounder’ and the ‘Man of the Series’ awards. Thus, it seemed only inevitable that he would make the senior grade and the revered call arrived on the 22nd of October, 2015 against Assam at Nagpur.
The all-rounder picked 33 wickets in 6 matches in his debut season at an astounding average of 17.36. Since then, he has grown from strength to strength and become a vital component of the Vidarbha Ranji machinery.
Though he didn’t feature in the opening few games in the victorious 2017-18 campaign, he still managed to nip out 29 batsmen in 6 games at an average of 16.65. A year later, he enjoyed his most productive season when he scalped 55 wickets en route Vidarbha’s 2nd Ranji conquest.
The aforementioned displays haven’t gone unnoticed and he was recently selected for the India A multi-day side to face Sri Lanka A.
The all-rounder expressed delight at his inclusion and said, “I was hopeful of getting my maiden call-up after a stellar season, which culminated with a Man of the Match performance in the final. Thus, I want to build on this momentum and perform well for India A so that I can continue to be in the eyes of the national selectors.”
On being asked what the major factors behind his success were, he credited his preparation and a healthy environment in the team dressing room.
As for the former, he said: “I like trusting my preparation and playing to my strengths, which is accuracy. I keep bowling my line and length and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes rather than trying something extravagant just for the sake of it.”
With regards to the latter, he emphasised the role senior players like Wasim Jaffer, Faiz Fazal and Ganesh Satish have played in his development.
He added: “Wasim bhai has always lent a helping hand and has been available to solve every query of mine. The fact that he brings with himself a wealth of experience only helped me improve. Faiz bhai and Satish bhai have also been really helpful and have given me the required confidence to succeed.”
Sarwate also spoke very highly of his coach, Chandrakant Pandit, saying: “Chandu sir has this reputation of being a disciplinarian and that has helped me and the rest of the team evolve into better cricketers. Those qualities have personally enabled me to maximise my strengths.”
However, despite so many things going in Sarwate’s favour, the all-rounder hardly wants to rest on his laurels and is determined to enhance the other facets of his game-play.
Over the course of the past few seasons, the all-rounder has come up trumps with the bat too. Yet, he looks at himself as someone capable of contributing even more with the willow.
He added, “So far, I have a first class average of 31 but I consider myself as more of a batsman and I want to improve on that average further. I initially started out as a batsman and thus, would like to increase my run tally in the coming season.”
As for his other goals for the upcoming season, he said that he looks forward to the opportunity of representing Vidarbha in white-ball cricket too. He said, “I have only played 4 List A games and want to play more white-ball cricket. I hope to get more chances this season so that I can cement a place in the List A and T20 teams.”
On being asked about any particular aspect he wants to address to make the transition to white-ball cricket, he replied that he would look to improve his fielding and fitness, considering the demands limited-overs cricket place on players these days.
With the 2019-20 domestic season around the corner, Sarwate looked upbeat and confident of Vidarbha re-writing the history books and winning an unprecedented 3rd consecutive Ranji Trophy crown.
He said, “We all know that it is going to be difficult to replicate our feat of last year but we believe in ourselves to retain our title and we have absolutely no intention of giving it away without a fight.”
Aditya’s career path has always been filled with a plethora of ups and downs, with the latter slightly outweighing the former till a while back. Yet, in a Rocky Balboa-esque manner, he has fought all the odds time and again to establish himself as a top-drawer cricketer.
In the process, he has also given hope to thousands of cricket aspirants that nothing is impossible if one stays true to oneself and keeps on persevering.
Through his topsy-turvy journey and subsequent success, he has portrayed that sometimes one needs to be patient and wait a touch for things to start falling into place.
After all, the potential delirium at the end tastes much sweeter if one has waited for it enough.