Himachal Pradesh's men won their maiden Vijay Hazare title the day after Christmas. In the 19-year history of the domestic one-day tournament conducted by the BCCI, Himachal beat five-time former champions Tamil Nadu by 11 runs via the VJD method at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.
A star-studded Tamil Nadu side, which had batted oppositions out of the game in their run up to the final, ran into a spirited, well-oiled unit of Himachal Pradesh.
Led by their most experienced player Rishi Dhawan, who displayed all-round skills, Himachal have been on the constant rise. Second highest wicket-taker and run-scorer in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Dhawan's team bagged early advantage by winning the toss and bowling first.
At 40/4, Tamil Nadu's experienced campaigner in Dinesh Karthik along with Baba Indrajith held fort to stitch a century-plus partnership and reach 314 at the end of the 50 overs.
For Himachal, Shubham Arora responded by attacking the seam bowlers in the chase to get to his maiden hundred in List A career. The young player from Hamirpur displayed grit and temperament after having a rough outing with the gloves behind the stumps.
The umpires had to stop play due to bad light at nearly 5 pm after incorporating delays. The overrate issue has been a consistent factor with most of the teams. Only 12 of the 48 overs by Tamil Nadu in the final were bowled by spinners, so the overrate remained unsatisfactory.
This concern has been consistent in Ranji Trophy matches as well. The on-field umpires do their bit and the match referee has a limited role in ensuring conformity.
England were docked eight ICC World Test Championship points for maintaining a slow over-rate after the first Ashes Test against Australia. The players were also fined 100 per cent of their match fee for this breach. With the kind of series England are having at present, each point is worth gold. These penalty points could cause them a major jolt in the WTC cycle.
Another fact that got highlighted in the last few years of watching and covering domestic cricket is the emergence of difference state teams that have upped their performance levels. A few years ago, when more teams got added to the domestic fold, it paved the way for players to turn professionals and play for other than their own state teams.
Opening the doors for improvement and opportunity, we are seeing the emergence of teams which were just known as participants. Uttarakhand earlier and Meghalaya this year have qualified for next year's elite division of Ranji Trophy after their consistent performance.
A lot of states have invested in creating good infrastructure. Andhra Pradesh has plenty of grounds of quality to conduct tournaments, besides holding camps round the year. Himachal Pradesh have a strong base in Dharamsala, while the Rajasthan Cricket academy in Jaipur houses similar facilities.
The number is only increasing by the year with cricket infrastructure getting better for players to play and hone skills round the year. Be it rains or extreme heat, with the wickets covered from the top, it makes the nets accessible in different seasons.
In the women's game too, teams like Jharkhand, Baroda, Saurashtra and Kerala have been on the rise. The Uttarakhand U-19 women won the domestic championship recently.
The domination of the big state teams is a thing of the past. The Services men as a team made it to their first semifinal in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
With professional setups becoming a norm and teams delivering results despite not having recognised stalwarts in their ranks, it signifies that a defined process is a step in the right direction.
(Anjum Chopra is a former captain of the Indian women's cricket team. The views expressed are personal)