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Professionals playing a key role in domestic cricket

Jan 12, 2018
By Veturi Srivatsa, Middle-order batsman Ganesh Satish left his native Karnataka after scoring 2,500 runs in the Ranji Trophy nursing a grouse that he never had a fixed batting position in the team.

He moved to Vidarbha three seasons ago. He is now happy he bats at a number of his choice. He played a major part in leading Vidarbha into the Ranji Trophy final for the first time, beating none other than eight times champions Karnataka.

He scored scored 81 crucial runs in the second innings, though fast bowler Rajneesh Gurbani was the star with 12 wickets in the match.

Satish is a professional with Vidarbha and must have got immense pleasure by his performance against his own state team of which he once was captain. The highest run-getter in Ranji Trophy, Wasim Jaffer, is another pro with Vidarbha.

Whether Vidarbha win the Ranji Trophy by beating Delhi or not, they have done enough to make a mark.

Professional cricketers playing for any Ranji Trophy team right up from the northeast to down south is nothing new in Indian cricket. Even the great C.K. Nayudu and his brother C.S. Nayudu played for Andhra, the state of their forefathers, as both of them essentially belonged to Nagpur and then the princely Holkar state, where they played most of their cricket.

For long, players mostly played for a side on birth qualification or because of their employment. In recent years the number of professionals has gone up for different reasons.

There are those who have run through their first-class cricket for their home state and move out to get engaged as a player-cum-mentor to help smaller associations, like Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Akash Chopra did by shifting to Rajasthan from Maharashtra and Delhi respectively. And they were instrumental in guding Rajasthan win the Ranji Trophy not only for the first time in 2010-11 season but retain it the following season.

Then, there are those who are forced to leave their parent association owing to differences with the officialdom. Some of them returned home after a change of guard at the association like Ambati Rayudu did this season, returning from Baroda to Hyderabad. Interestingly, he played his international cricket as a Baroda player. Pragyan Ojha returned to Hyderabad from Bengal and Robin Uthappa, like Satish, found life difficult in Karnataka and played for Saurashtra. Another international, Piyush Chawla, left his uttar Pradesh and played for Gujarat.

There are those like Satish who want to enhacne their prospects going out of their state which is full of talented players and a fight for places in the team. Some do it at a fairly younger age and some when they are in late 20s and still have a fair amount of cricket left in them.

There are others who move to associations which have powerful officials who can even influence selection! There was a time when every aspiring cricketer wanted to move to Bengal when Jagmohan Dalmiya was it head, fast bowlers Chetan Sharma and Prashan Vaidya and Shrikant Kalyani readily come to mind.

In the last few seasons a list of tranferred players is issued by the board like soccer traners elsewhere. Also a lot former players are moving to various states as coaches. Chandrakant Pandit, who fell out of favour in Mumbai, moved to inspire Vidarbha and take them into the final.

In the case of the twin states, Andhra and Hyderabad (now capital of Telangana) the to- and-fro has become routine, mostly players moving to the new state.

The man who gave the player-mentor a status is Sandip Patil, who after his playing days in Bombay, took over as Madhya Pradesh coach, leading them in the initial years, before becoming India’s and Kenya’s coach.

The real big names figuring as professionals turned out for Rajasthan in the late 1950s and 1960s when Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Majrekar, Salim Durrani, Subhash Gupte and Arvind Apte, and Mumbai-based Raj Singh, Hanumant Singh and Kalilash Gattani played for Rajasthan when the side challenged Bombay seven times unsuccessfully in the final.

Rajasthan continued their policy of hiring professionals with Praveen Amre, Sanjeev Sharma, Ashish Kapoor, Ajay Jadeja, Venugopala Rao, Hemang Badani, playing for them before Kanitkar, Chopra and Odisha’s Rashmi Ranjan Parida eventually won them the Ranji Trophy.

With new teams thanks to the bifurcation of states and Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha insisting on bringing all the northeastern states into the fold, more and more professionals will be seen around the country.

Wherever a cricketer plays, his match fee will remain the same and so will be the facilities with more and more money getting into the board’s kitty.

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