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Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Not many cricketers across the country are fortunate enough to play for Team India. However, with the resurgence of Indian Premier League (IPL), many talented players in the country are making a fruitful career by playing in the cash-rich league.

However, the milch cow of Indian cricket has not proved much rewarding for Odisha cricketers. Only two Odia players have got 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. They have represented Hyderabad and Maharashtra cricket associations respectively.

Fortunately, Subhranshu Senapati, who is currently the number one batsman for Odisha, has been picked up by Chennai Super Kings this year. But with the franchise struggling to make it to the play-offs, rookie Subhranshu is less likely to make it to the playing eleven.

Odisha has unfortunately failed to produce international level cricketers. Is it due to lack of talent or the inability to perform at the ‘required’ level? At this juncture, the million dollar question is why not many Odia players are making it to the IPL teams?

There are many cricket clubs spread all over the State that conduct many local level tournaments. The presence and participation of Ranji cricketers augment the process of their evolution. There is no dearth of passion and commitment from the side of the players either. Then, what is holding Odisha back in producing many IPL cricketers?

As per a former Odia cricketer, who doesn’t want to be named, the reason may be threefold- infrastructure, performance and clout.

“First, lack of infrastructure has given a major jolt to the aspirations of cricketers in the State. There aren’t many stadiums here. Most of the clubs are concentrated in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.” He said.

“The game in the State also suffers from lack of finances. The local clubs are not maintained properly due to lack of money. 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 former coach Rashmi Ranjan Prida, performance of Odisha players in various domestic level tournaments including the Ranji Trophy are not consistent enough to attract the attention of any cricket franchise.

“Performance in the domestic circuit cannot guarantee you a spot in an IPL franchise, but it can surely bring you into reckoning. The Odia cricketers have failed to make it to the ‘reckoning list’ due to their inconsistent performances. Some players have shown flashes of brilliance but nothing eye-catching,” said Parida.

Another former cricketer, who also chose to remain anonymous, said, Odisha has never won any major domestic titles. Players here suffer from lack of self belief. Their background and psychology prevent them from dreaming big. They only aspire to play for the State team. This lack of self-confidence and aspiration needs to change. Odisha cricketers should dream big and must not be complacent at any point in time.

“Meanwhile, there is a considerable clout exerted by the boards of Mumbai, Tamil Nadu and Delhi in BCCI administration and in the selection process. Odisha belongs to the most neglected group. The State cricket is run by the whims and fancies of a few officials. It’s high time this kind of autocratic culture was changed,” he said.

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