Ram Sunder Singh Akela (12) of Bihar practises at Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi on Sunday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
If there is life, there has to be cricket. And, if there is cricket, there has to be commitment.
Running between the wickets in a gully match may be sheer fun for many youngsters, but for 40-odd boys from two states outside Jharkhand it is the gateway to a winning career quite like Mahi’s.
As Bihar battles for recognition with the BCCI and Uttar Pradesh loses ground to corruption, budding cricketers in the age group of 12-20 years are flocking to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hometown Ranchi from these states to learn finer nuances of the game.
Since the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) is recognised by the BCCI, these boys have already received opportunities galore and see their future nowhere but on the capital pitch.
Rajnish Dixit, a U-19 player who represented Jharkhand in the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) matches in Indore this January, will tell you when the going gets tough the tough get going.
The UP teen lives in a matchbox accommodation in Bazartand area of Kanke in Ranchi. He wakes up at 4am for his daily fitness regime and joins cricket coaching, offered by U.N. Jha at Birsa Agriculture University grounds, by 6am.
“At times, it becomes difficult to meet daily expenses. But, Sir (Jha) supports me. He boosts my morale,” said the wannabe batsman whose father drives auto in Murdaha, a small town near Varanasi.
No less difficult is life for Mohammed Anwar who too hails from UP but has donned Jharkhand jersey in SGFI ties. “Practice is everything for me. All I know is that I have to hone my cricket skills. Life is and will remain very difficult for some time, but then, the road to success is never easy,” said the 18-year-old.
Sonu Pratap (17), a native of Rohtas, Bihar, doesn't have a television in his 12ft by 12ft rented room at Sukhdeonagar which he shares with another boy from Madhubani. So, the budding cricketer, who played for Jharkhand in Indore, is saving from his paltry monthly purse of Rs 3,000 to catch an IPL match live.
Jha, a seasoned cricketer and coach, himself hails from Lucknow, UP. And, it is the passion for cricket that has kept him glued to the city for nearly two years now. “In my state, cricket and corruption go hand in hand. In Jharkhand, things are different. Real talent does not always get neglected. The selection processes here are much fairer than a state like UP,” the coach observed.
Echoing Jha, coach and member of Ranchi District Cricket Association Muzzafar Ali said boys from Bihar and UP come here for opportunities.
According to the coach, it is the “no-nonsense, just cricket” ambience of Ranchi that comes in handy for the boys.
On the selection process, he said the boys had to first play for a local club. “Then, an open trial is conducted by the district cricket association. Whoever plays good cricket at district-level matches is invited to attend JSCA camps and from among them the best are selected for the state team.”
Is influx of outsiders a threat to local cricket talent?
“Never. Talent transcends borders,” the coach said.
What is your message for these budding players?