Calcutta: “On one level, it’s great to be on a par with Michael Ballack… It would, however, have been better if I had even a fraction of his fan following,” remarked Debanik Sengupta, Germany’s cricket captain.
Soccer is the No.1 sport, but the Deutscher Cricket Bund (DCB) has been an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council for years.
Sengupta, who grew up in Calcutta fascinated by Ian Botham’s exploits, is currently leading Germany in the European Championships being held in Scotland.
“We should have beaten Greece in our opening match yesterday, but that was not to be,” Sengupta told The Telegraph on Friday evening.
“The Greeks were seven down for 85, but we allowed them to score 180… We ought to have got 181, but managed no more than 124,” he added in a tone which didn’t hide his disappointment.
Sengupta, who made the Bengal Ranji squad more than once in the late 1980s, top-scored with 40. The right-hander bats at No.4.
The face-off versus Greece, by the way, was his debut in an “official” match: “Earlier, I’d played and captained in friendlies… Thursday, though, was special… It’s a pity I didn’t have a winning start.”
Sengupta, who moved to Germany with wife Ranja a decade ago, met the qualification requirements last year.
In fact, another Calcuttan (opener Asif Khan) and Himachal’s Manoj Walia, an allrounder, are also in the German squad.
The biggest representation is from Pakistan — eight. There’s a Sri Lankan, too.
“Cricket isn’t really a public sport as yet, which is why we’ve only got two born-in-Germany players in the XIV… The DCB is working hard, but it’s one big challenge,” Sengupta explained.
Englishman Keith Thompson is Germany’s coach, but even a short visit by somebody well-known is out of the question owing to “financial constraints.”
For now, the DCB is entirely dependent on grants from the world body. Given that reality, the guidance of Herr Franz Beckenbauer can, perhaps, be sought…
“Getting to interact with big names from the world of cricket is bound to be useful, but I’m aware of the difficulties,” Sengupta said.
Incidentally, an allrounder at one time, Sengupta has stopped marking his run-up as a mediumpacer. “At this age (39), I can’t really be bowling at a competitive level,” he quipped.
A ‘student’ of the Steve Waugh and Sourav Ganguly brand of leadership, Sengupta has been trying to infuse aggression — “the idea is to always go hard at the opposition, like Waugh and Sourav did…”
Germany’s next test, on Saturday, is against Guernsey.
Sengupta’s parents (Dilip Kumar and Jaya) as also elder sister Parnika stay in Calcutta, while younger sister Adirupa is settled in the UK.
“I try and make a trip home once a year… Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch up with near and dear ones before the year is out,” Sengupta signed off, as it was time for a team meeting.
Indeed, even amateur teams have bits of the professional flavour.