Arzan Nagwaswalla is excited. The 22-year-old will be opening the bowling for Gujarat for the first time, but that's not the reason for his excitement. If anything, there's extra pressure on him with Roosh Kalaria absent and his side all-out for 281, against Punjab during the league match in Ranji Trophy 2019-20.
His family is watching him from the stands, but he is used to that also by now. After all, they are in attendance whenever he plays in Valsad.
The reason for Nagwaswalla's excitement is that the match is being telecast live. And he did make sure to look good on TV: the left-arm seamer ended up taking five wickets in each innings.
"It's a great feeling playing at home and taking five wickets in a live match. Everyone has a dream of playing in a live match and taking wickets," he would tell Star Sports after Punjab's first innings. "Maza aata hai live match khelne mein [It's fun playing a live match]."
That tells a lot about Nagwaswalla the person: simple, humble and real. A soft-spoken guy who lets his bowling do all the talk, and that was on display during the semi-final too as he picked up 5 for 81 to bowl Saurashtra out for 304 on the second afternoon. That Gujarat handed back the advantage by being 119 for 6 at stumps was on their batsmen.
On Saturday, Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel had put Saurashtra in on a pitch where the hosts anyway wanted to bat first. After seeing off a tricky first session, Saurashtra moved to 102 for 1. The early moisture in the surface had dried off. The ball was 46 overs old, means there was neither the conventional swing nor the reverse. And the first-day pitch was too young to help spinners. With all this, Saurashtra were set for a big total, threatening to reduce the match to a one-innings contest.
But Nagwaswalla, the leading wicket-taker for Gujarat this season, wasn't ready to give up yet. Third over into his second spell, he was running in hard, bowling the fifth-stump line and trying to force an outside edge. He wasn't to be denied for long even though the dismissal didn't happen the way he would have envisaged.
Harvik Desai, who was batting on 35, sliced a wide, low full-toss to short cover where Bhargav Merai flung himself to his left to take a brilliant catch. In the next over, Avi Barot played a rash shot to gift Axar Patel his second wicket.
After that, Sheldon Jackson and Vishvaraj Jadeja batted patiently, adding 60 for the fourth wicket to take Saurashtra to 162 for 3. With the partnership budding, it was once again Nagwaswalla bringing his side into the game. This time with a double strike, as Vishvaraj and Arpit Vasavada fell on successive balls. Both chased the fifth-stump deliveries, Vishvaraj trying to steer one to third man only to edge it to the wicketkeeper and Vasavada offering a nervous poke to first slip. Now those were as per the plan.
On the second morning, he almost had Jackson too when the batsman tried to chase a wide one but Parthiv couldn't hold on to a regulation chance. Jackson was on 84 at that point and Saurashtra 237 for 5. Jackson went on to bring up his 19th first-class hundred before falling to Kalaria for 103.
Jackson's was the seventh to fall, but there is no tail in this Saurashtra line-up: their No. 11 Chetan Sakariya averaged 20.33 before this game. When Prerak Mankad and Dharmendrasinh Jadeja had added 31 for the eighth wicket, there were murmurs of Saurashtra posting a total in the vicinity of 350.
That, however, wasn't to be the case. Nagwaswalla came around the wicket and start peppering Dharmendrasinh with short balls, who eventually fended one to short leg. In the seamer's next over, Mankad tried for a single to third man but the ball kept coming in and uprooted the off stump via the inside edge.
It's still early days but Nagwaswalla has put up some impressive numbers: 60 wickets from 16 first-class games at an average of 22.03 and a strike rate of 44.2. What makes them even more special is that he is generally the first change, and therefore, doesn't get to use the new ball often.
Despite being only into his second season, Nagwaswalla doesn't consider himself a newcomer anymore. According to him, he has grown a lot since the last season, and that's reflecting in his bowling as well.
"This season, I am more disciplined," he said at the close of play on Saturday. "There was a time today when we required a breakthrough. Had it been the last season, I would have perhaps pitched a couple of deliveries here and there, straying from my line. That's something I have learnt this season, that you have to stick to the plan. So mentally you need to be prepared and bowl with discipline. That's something I have been able to do this season."
And what else has changed from the last season? "Last year I was just thinking about my own performance. But now I have played 15-16 matches, I am no more a newcomer. So I want to take more responsibility and live up to the expectations. Also, there were some minor issues with my run-up and the release point last time. In the off-season, I analysed my mistakes and worked on those areas. That's why I am more consistent this year."
Nagwaswalla may not realise but one more thing has also changed. Till the last season, people knew him as the only active Parsi cricketer in India. Now they are aware of his bowling credentials as well.