Coffee Bytes caught up with one such individual who represented Odisha at the highest level, and even holds the distinction of having been rewarded by the BCCI for his stellar performances at the Under-16 level. In a candid chat with Jeetu Satpathy, the left arm spinner whose entrepreneurship skills are now known by one and many in the town, about the game that he fell in love with.
How unfortunate is it for a country of billions that worships a game like a religion, to be able to play only a handful at the biggest stage? There have been cricketers, far more gifted than many legends to have adorned the coveted 22 yards who could have made it big, if only a couple of things had gone their way. While some get pushed down to live a life of monotony and boredom, there are a certain few whose second innings becomes a thing to talk about
What pushed you into becoming a cricketer?
The game has always been my first love. Hailing from a place that did not have a lot of prospects for cricket, it was a difficult for the first few years after coming to Bhubaneswar. I stayed with my relatives’ who were initially hesitant to take me in, being the nuisance that I was, but somehow, I became far more serious at one point and that changed the way I was. I owe a lot to my coach, Kishore Mania who instilled confidence in me when nobody else was willing to.
Having played for Odisha at the highest level at a time when the state was not yet a known entity in cricketing circles, what do you feel about the current lot of cricketers who stunned everyone by reaching the Quarter Finals of Ranji Trophy this year?
There has certainly been drastic improvement over the years and the players have put up their hands to perform at crucial junctures to take the team forward. But one should also remember that, while our level of performance has definitely gone up, so has that of the other states. If our players are to get noticed by the national selectors, they need to perform even better.
There have often been talks of how the eastern states are majorly neglected while choosing the national squad and certain regions get preferential treatment. What is your take on the same?
Though not completely false, I would say that our cricketers probably haven’t gone that extra yard, to push a claim of being overlooked. They have gelled well as a team and have been improving steadily, but stronger individual performances are the basic criterion, that not many have been able to fulfill. Another significant reason for the apparent neglect could be the fact that we came into the national scene much later than the other states. However, you should also remember that two of India’s most successful skippers have been from the east, and if there was any kind of preferential treatment, I don’t believe that could have happened.
Your take on the failure of the Odisha Premier League…
The concept was a great one. Being a part of the coaching staff and having been associated closely with it, I believe the event could have been a success hadn’t there been an involvement of a huge sum of money. The motive of the Odisha Cricket Association was to scout talent from remote parts of the state who are usually neglected. However, it was not commercially viable for investments in that scale, at that level.
The support staff of the team now features names like Debashish Mohanty and Shiv Sunder Das, players that you have played alongside, who were among the chosen few from the state to represent India. Do you believe that Odisha cricket is in good hands?
Oh, I definitely do! Debashish Mohanty was one of the best fast bowlers of his generation in the domestic circuit. The fact that he went on to play for India, performing the way he did speaks a lot about his capabilities. As for Shiv Sunder Das, I haven’t seen many among his more illustrious contemporaries displaying the class & technique, that he did. He deserved to play far more matches than he ended up with, but for me, his batting was a treat to the eyes. And Odisha cricket is indeed lucky to have them both at the helm of affairs.
On the Lodha Committee recommendations…
I am not one, to comment on what was right or wrong about the whole episode but some of the reforms only bode well for the development of the game. While the decision to separate political and cricketing privileges is a welcome one, the suggestion that there needs to be an age limit to things is something that needs to be thought about. Injecting young blood into administration is certainly needed but there could also be scope for an advisory body featuring the experienced campaigners to help in the transition.
The Indian Cricket Team has had a smooth transition with Virat Kohli comfortably taking over from MS Dhoni in all formats. How capable do you think this team is, after some remarkable series wins recently?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a wonderful, wonderful captain. His contribution to Indian Cricket has been immense and he took over the reins to build a team when the legends were retiring. And though this team has done really well to stomp its authority in recent times, one can only pass a judgment once they have done the same, in all conditions. You ought to beat all teams in all conditions to become the best of the best.
No, I don’t regret any of the things that happened to me. Maybe, I could have gone a step higher and done things a bit differently but regret is not one of the feelings that I get. I achieved all that I could, and at the end of the day, it is all about being content with the life, that you have been blessed with. And contentment is what I feel, when I look back. ❏