Waiting in vain for its next cricket international, Odisha has found some solace in two former Test players from the state getting important positions for the selection and management set up of the Indian teams.
First it was Debasis Mohanty, the first Test cricketer of the state, who in December last year was appointed as a member of the All India Senior Men Selection Committee by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The men’s national team, chosen by Mohanty and his fellow selectors, will be touring England next month to play the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand, followed by a five-match Test series against England. This is a promotion for Mohanty who had earlier served as a member of Junior Men National Selection Committee.
After Mohanty, Odisha’s most Test-playing batsman Shiv Sunder Das was named as the batting coach of the Indian Women’s Team earlier this month, also for an England tour. The schedule of the tour features a one-off Test, three ODIs and three T20Is to be played from June 27 to July 15. Interestingly, before being appointed as the batting coach, Das came closer to becoming National selector of the men’s team twice but only to be ignored at the last moment on both the occasions.
Thankfully, the selection of Das as the batting coach of the women’s team did not create any controversy, unlike that of head coach Ramesj Powar, who regained the post, replacing W V Raman. It is believed that the vast experience of playing League and First-Class cricket in England and scoring a 250 in a first-class tour game against Essex at Chelmsford in 2002, made Das a unanimous choice. His past working experience as coach of the India A Women, Odisha and Manipur Ranji teams as well as at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) with Rahul Dravid further bolstered his case.
Now the question is can the former Odisha captain convert this opportunity into success and cement his place? Though the answer will be known only after the end of the tour, one thing is certain that the assignment will be a litmus test for Das. His past experience as a coach has nothing noteworthy to boast about.
Under his coaching, Odisha Ranji team came a cropper in the 2017-18 season, finishing sixth among seven teams in Group C League, losing two matches and drawing four. No wonder that he was replaced by Debasis Mohanty for the season 2018-19. Incidentally, Das had replaced Mohanty for the season 2017-18, despite the latter guiding Odisha to Ranji Trophy quarter-finals after a gap of 15 years in the 2016-17 season.
If Test cricket is the ultimate form of sport, then playing Test cricket in English conditions should be the ultimate test for a batsman. Preparing Indian women’s team for the four-day Test against England will no doubt be a herculean task for Das. The Test will be the first match of the tour and the Indian women will be playing a Test after a gap of more than six years.
According to former Odisha Ranji team captain and current coach Rashmi Ranjan Parida, English conditions, featuring soft pitches, chilly weather and swinging ball makes batting a highly challenging job. “The green tops heavily favours pace bowlers. A cricket ball swings in the air everywhere. But in English conditions, it also swings off the pitch. It’s like a double-edged sword,’’ explains Parida, who also has ample experience of playing cricket in England.
“It’s very difficult to judge the swinging ball and play your shots. For instance, I once flicked a ball to the leg side, but ended up getting caught in the covers,’’ adds Parida and goes on to say that in order to thrive on English wickets, a batsman must have to be technically sound and mentally strong.
“The best way to play swinging deliveries is to play it as late as possible. On sub-continent wickets you can play on the rise as the ball comes on to the bat nicely. But on English wickets, you have to wait for the ball and judge its movement carefully. Also one has to be very meticulous in shot selection,’’ elaborates Parida, who hit a superb century to guide Odisha to Ranji Trophy semifinals for the first time in 2001 and won Ranji Trophy twice for Rajasthan in 2011 and 2012.
With most of the Indian women cricketers having no experience of playing Test cricket, the job of preparing at least a competitive batting unit will be all the more challenging for Das. Another area where he would have to pay special attention is running between the wickets.
But being a quiet man, would it be easy for Das to pass on his thoughts and ideas to the players? Moreover, it has already been revealed that some senior players of the Indian women’s team have ego issues and they may not pay heed to the advice of the batting coach.
But his Odisha teammates believe that if a situation arises, Das can be a tough taskmaster. “It’s true that off the field, Das is a man of few words. But on it, he is aggressive and does not mince words,’’ reminded Parida.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)
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