Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

With so many cricketers playing competitive cricket in the country amid cut-throat competition, it is ostensibly pretty tough to play for the Indian team. Only three players from the State- spin all-rounder Sanjay Raul, swing bowler Debasish Mohanty and Test batsman Shiv Sunder Das from Odisha have so far managed to play for the Indian team.

However, with the resurgence of the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), many aspiring cricketers across India get the opportunity to play in a top-level platform and have a lucrative career option. Even many cricketers from a poor state like Bihar have cashed in the opportunity to play top-notch cricket in the marquee event. 

Among the cricketers from Bihar, wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan, medium pacers like Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar have really impressed with their performances by playing for Team India and different franchises in IPL. Hard-hitting all-rounder Shivam Singh’s domestic exploit also earned him an IPL deal after being part of the Punjab Kings. 

Even talented cricketers like Umran Malik, Abdul Samad and Parvez Rasool from lesser-known cricket boards like Jammu and Kashmir have played in the cash-rich league.

Odia cricketers in IPL

However, fans in Odisha are always intrigued by the question that why the milch cow of Indian cricket has not proved much rewarding for the State cricketers. 

Only two Odia players have had the opportunity to play in the mega tournament so far. While Haladhar Das was the first cricketer from Odisha to make an IPL debut playing for Deccan Chargers in 2008, four years later, all-rounder Biplab Samantaray was bought by the same franchise. Odia cricketers Pragyan Ojha and Abhishek Rout have played in the mega event. However, they have represented Hyderabad and Maharashtra cricket associations respectively.

Fortunately, Odisha’s No.1 batsman Subhranshu Senapati was bought by Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2023. However, the attacking right-handed batsman didn’t feature in a single game. Unfortunately, he was released by the franchise ahead of the IPL 2024 auction.

Odia cricketers in IPL 2024

As many as 16 cricketers from Odisha were registered for IPL 2024. They were Govind Poddar, Prayash Singh, Sunil Roul, Rakesh Pattanaik, Harshit Rathod, Swastik Samal, Debabrata Samal, Abhishek Yadav, Sobhagya Rout, Shantanu Mishra, Subhranshu Senapati, Rajesh Dhuper, Mushtaq Beg, Ashirwad Swain, Rajesh Mohanty and Sandeep Pattanaik. However, not a single cricketer was bought by any of the franchises in the last auction held in Dubai.

What ails Odisha cricket?

There is no dearth of talented cricketers in the State. They also don’t lack passion and commitment. Under the circumstances, the million dollar question is why not many Odia players are making it to the IPL teams?

As per a former Odia cricketer, who doesn’t want to be named, the reason behind IPL snub of the cricketers from the State could be lack of proper infrastructure, lack of finance, performance and clout.

“Lack of infrastructure has emerged as a major impediment for the aspiring cricketers in the State. There aren’t many stadiums here. Most of the cricket clubs are mainly concentrated in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The game in the State also suffers from lack of finances. The local clubs are not maintained properly due to lack of resources. Lack of ‘turf wicket’ deprives cricketers of getting a taste of real pitches. Odisha cricket is mainly dominated by ‘matting wickets’ which is not where the Ranji and international matches take place. Lack of turf wickets makes the transition a difficult task for those who have played the entire season on matting wickets,” he said.

According to a former coach and cricketer, performance of Odisha players in various domestic level tournaments is not consistent enough to attract the attention of Indian selectors and the talent scouts of any cricket franchise.

“Consistent and stellar performances in prestigious domestic tournaments like Ranji Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy really count. It can surely bring any cricketer into reckoning. However, the Odia cricketers have failed to impress due to their inconsistent performances. Some players have shown flashes of brilliance by hitting an odd century here and there, but they are mostly inconsistent,” he said under the condition of anonymity.

He is also of the opinion that Odisha has never won any major domestic titles. In his opinion, most of the players in the team suffer from lack of self belief. Their background and psychology prevent them from dreaming big. 

“This lack of self-confidence and aspiration needs to change. Odisha cricketers should dream big and must not be complacent at any point of time,” he pointed out.

“There is a considerable clout exerted by other State boards in BCCI administration and in the selection process. However, Odisha belongs to the most neglected group. The State cricket is run by the whims and fancies of a few officials having feudal mindset. This kind of autocratic culture should be changed. The sooner it happens, the better it will be for the future of Odisha cricket,” he signed off.