Ranchi, Apr 7: What is common among Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yousuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel?
Not only all of them were members of the victorious Indian cricket team which humbled Sri Lanka to lift ICC World Cup at Mumbai on April 2 but also they come from smaller towns.
These bunch of cricketers played the game in non-descript playgrounds, honed skills under unknown coaches, but burst into the international scene like gladiators with such aplomb that the world was left speechless - even British media on April 6 had suggested Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney to learn a thing or two from Dhoni on how to react under pressure situations?
“Till 1970s Indian cricket team had comprised mostly cricketers from the glittering cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata or Chandigarh. But the situation changed with the advent of these talented players,” Chanchal Bhattacharya, one of the three coaches under whom Dhoni played during his formative years, said.
Former Bihar off-spinner Vikas Kumar Ranu, who played with Dhoni and was also coached by Bhattacharya, said, “Till about a decade ago small town cricketers hardly used to get notice of the national media compared to their counterparts in metros.”
“Dhoni and I represented Rest of India Under-19 final against Punjab led by Yuvraj Singh in 1999. Yuvraj went on to play
international cricket a little early while Dhoni had to wait for some more years,” the 30-year-old, who had captained East Zone U-19 team and now a cricket coach, said.
When Sachin Tendulkar made waves during school cricket in Mumbai the media rightly dubbed him as “future Sunil Gavaskar” while
Delhi's ex-left-arm spinner Maninder Singh as the “future Bishen Singh Bedi after his consistent performance in Under-19 cricket in 1980 and Chennai's L Shivramakrishna's leg spinners were compared with ex-Test player Bhagavat Chandrasekhar of Karnataka in the 1980s.
“During our time players from metros not only got quick notice of media but also schools and clubs used to felicitate even Under-15 players at their annual functions and invited former or current Test cricketers to encourage the young talents,” former Bihar Ranji batsman Manoj Yadav, who played in late 1970s and early 1980s, said. “Now the situation has changed,” Yadav, who played English County cricket for Middlesex in 1988/89, added. Former East Zone wicketkeeper Ashok Ghosh said, “The Indian premier League has given a perfect platform to players from smaller towns.”
Sharing Ghosh's observation, another former Bihar and Jharkhand Ranji batsman Ratan Kumar said bowlers S Nadeem and Varun Ooran and batsman Saurav Tiwari from Jharkhand are playing in various teams in the ongoing IPL tournament. He recalled Jharkhand and Assam Under-25 match in 2003 when the two teams agreed for draw after bowling 15 mandatory overs on the last day so that they would not miss a single ball to watch World Cup final. “Dhoni was also playing for Jharkhand then,” he said.
Not to forget Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, former pacer Debashish Mohanty and ex-opener Shiv Sundar Das - all emerged as cricketers from smaller towns. PTI