Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ranji Trophy Scheduling - Did Orissa Cricket Association miss the plot?

The responsibility of ensuring that the game of cricket remains to be the number one sport in the country lies with everyone involved with the game at any level. It is one huge family with over a billion members that can only get stronger in the future. Today cricket is at an advantage but with the generation cycle changing, the youth starting to find interest in other avenues and with the disposable income of families being targeted by various other modes of entertainment and sports solution providers, it is the prerogative of the representative of state cricket associations to market and package the game in a way that could engage more people than ever before and would keep the interest alive and competition away.

First class cricket matches in tier 2 and tier 3 cities are festive occasions that create a sense of community feeling, bring the city together and trigger a reason for happiness. For the sake of cricket lovers state cricket authorities should ride on this euphoric phenomenon and take the game much deeper into the roots and ensure that it spreads across a wider spectrum of the society. For fans to continue talking about upcoming players like Sumitosh Praharaj or Dhiraj Singh like the way they discussed about Sanjay Satapathy or Ajay Barik a decade back it is important for the controllers of the game to understand that the kid studying in Deepika English Medium School, Rourkela needs his dose of stars and live competitive cricket to remain motivated and continue dreaming of making a career in this beautiful game either as a player or as someone who could go on to facilitate the execution of the game in the years to come.

The moments generated out of watching a live cricket match involving stars goes a long way in inspiring the youngsters to love and live the game. While watching Rahul Dravid is only confined to bigger cities due to lack of international level infrastructure elsewhere, witnessing some classy performances by first class stars in any city and on any ground can be made possible by the state cricket associations if proper intent and interest is shown.

Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) needs to be applauded for having taken proactive steps in this direction by first conceptualising Karnataka Premier League (KPL) in 2009 and then awarding hosting rights for the second season to smaller cities such as Hubli, Manipal and Mysore. The 2009 Ranji Trophy finals in Mysore attracted 5000 people to the Gangothri Glades Cricket Ground, it is a point showcasing the clear gap between excessive demand and shortage of supply for live competitive cricket in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. It is time for Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) to sense the opportunity, understand the dynamics of the Indian domestic cricket market and act prudently before it is too late.

OCA may justify its decision of hosting all the three home Ranji Trophy matches of 2010 season in Cuttack and the explanation handed out may be rational and apt but in the bargain the game continues to lose a large percentage of growth rate. The argument may cite Cuttack offering the required home advantage but the undercurrent that flows beneath the decision is an open secret.

Baroda’s Irfan Pathan may or may not play for the country anymore but for a cricket fanatic in Sambalpur, Puri or Balasore, he still is a big name and clicking a photograph with him or taking his autograph still holds good to be a prized memorabilia material in the living room. It is the responsibility of the authorities of the game within the state to channelize the funding of BCCI and develop the grassroots in earmarked locations apart from Cuttack and Bhubaneswar to ensure that live competitive cricket is a regular occurrence in the calendar rather than once in a while occasion.

On a concluding note, in the the 1997-1998 season, prior to the internet explosion when Orissa played Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match in Rourkela involving a few international stars, it was a massive hit among the local community. Now with cricket websites having created statistical stars out of first class cricketers, it is quite tempting to visualise the potential that remains to be explored.

Sidhanta Patnaik
This piece was produced at 9.55pm on 21st July 2010 while on the way from London to Sheffield and was published in on 24th July 2010

For the 2010-2011 Ranji Trophy season, Orissa is in the elite group B and the schedule is as follows:

November 1 to 4: Vs Baroda at Cuttack.
November 10 to 13: Vs Uttar Pradesh at Kanpur.
November 24 to 27: Vs Karnataka at Bangalore.
December 1 to 4: Vs Punjab at Cuttack.
December 8 to 11: Vs Himachal Pradesh at Cuttack.
December 15 to 18: Vs Haryana in Haryana.

Probables for 2010-2011 season: Shiv Sundar Das, Bikash Swarup Pati, Paresh Patel, Natraj Behera, Niranjan Behera, Rakesh Mohanty, Subit Biswal, Rashmi Ranjan Das, Biplab Samantaray, Gobind Podder, Partha Sarathi Patnaik, Sandeep Mulia, Haladhar Das, Subhrajit Sahu, Anshuman Gope, Debasis Mohanty, Basant Mohanty, Alok Sahoo, Santosh Jena, Deepak Behera, Preetamjeet Das, Alok Mangaraj, Dhiraj Singh, Manas Muduli, Lagnajit Samal, Bibhudutta Panda.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Watching Mark Ramprakash Bat

Mark Ramprakash was always a batsman I wanted to see play. It is not for nothing that he has been playing first class cricket before I went to kindergarten. For his sheer longevity he to me epitomises as one of those cricketer who connects the traditionalists of the game with the modern commercial environment. At times when the debate of whether the longer version of the game will survive or not comes up, it is a player like him who lends credibility and face to the authenticity of the format.

Watching an institution of runs like him continue his never ending journey of grinding runs day after day, session by session, hour after hour in the English county circuit is a free access to lessons on patience, perseverance, intensity and determination. For anyone who knows the deeper meaning of the game much beyond the wickets and runs on display, watching him bat is a top priority over other not so important commitments as it takes the follower back to those days when the plain simple sound of the ball hitting the bat meant the world rather than discussions revolving around which format of the game would survive and which would not.

The beauty of watching him is that he makes his job look classy which actually is not. The sense of responsibility he brings on with him, the value he attaches to his wicket and the willingness to take those blows one after one without bowing down is what makes him what he is. Playing those focussed dodgy innings and being prepared to look ugly in order to be able to get the team’s job done is what creates an aura around him and associates a sense of romance to his name. For anyone who follows the game at a level below international cricket, Mark Ramprakash is a legend, a name that means bricks of runs without any holes.

Since childhood, I have followed his scores on internet and more than the runs scored, I have been interested in the number of balls constituting that particular innings because to me that speaks about the man’s character. Watching him play live for the first time, I have absorbed with key interest, every ball he left and every defensive stroke he played in the 106 balls he had faced up till this point for his 50. Those moments make me curious to know what goes on between his ears that motivates him and inspires him to play the way he plays. The best I could do was pose with him for a photograph quite aptly with The Brit Oval as the backdrop, the ground which hosted the first test match in the northern hemisphere way back in 1880.

By witnessing his 1000th run of the 2010 county championship season, I have become a small part of his ageless journey. I can only wish him luck and hope that somewhere somehow another chance will be created for me to witness yet another innings of his before he finally decides to explore greener pastures.

He is one of those rare servants of the game who has created an international impact at the domestic level. As a batsman, Mark Ramprakash holds certain traits and possesses a rare art. Only time will be able to answer whether this rare form will continue to exist and excite in the future or not.

On a concluding note, the way he tackled the bouncer at 2.35pm and then followed up with a spectacular square cut for four runs at 2.36pm makes him a monumental figure and keeps me interested in his score card. As he stands tall with a first class statistics of 436 matches, 34481 runs and 112 centuries I get a feeling that for him it is not about how many caps but about how many balls.

Sidhanta Patnaik
This piece was produced between 2.07pm and 2.38pm (20th July 2010) while witnessing Mark Ramprakash progress from 30 to 56 while batting for Surrey CCC against Northamptonshire CCC on the first day of the 2nd division County Championship Match at The Brit Oval, London. He eventually went on to spend 495 minutes at the wicket for his 248 runs which came off 350 balls and consisted of 35 boundaries and 1 six.

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