A month ago these cricketers were sitting at home with nothing to do and wondering when they would return to playing competitive sport. For 13 Tamil Nadu cricketers who returned from the Indian Cricket League, the highly competitive first-division league in Chennai has been a huge blessing. What's more, almost all ICL returnees are performing with a vengeance. “I had mixed feelings about how I would be welcomed back,” India cricketer Hemang Badani said.
“But I knew that the only thing to do was to score runs. In the last year I have hardly played the longer version, so to bat six hours after being on the field for one-and-a-half days was tiring.” Badani has unbeaten scores of 74 and 150 from three matches for Grand Slam, a team owned by India Cements.
S Sriram, another cricketer who has worn India colours, has done even better, racking up scores of 191, 208 and 46 in three innings for Globetrotters, a team owned by MRF. The left-handed batsman has kept busy playing in the leagues in England and leading a club side in Auckland in the off season. “It's like coming back home,” said Sriram of the return from the Indian Cricket League.
“If anything, the hunger to do well has increased because we had so little long-form cricket in the Indian Cricket League. I'm quite amazed at how well we have been received. There has been no resentment whatsoever from anyone.”
For both these veterans, the excitement of being back in the reckoning for Ranji Trophy teams is palpable. While they would like to play for their home state, Tamil Nadu's batting line-up is settled at the moment. Neither player is averse to turning out for other states, should they not be required by Tamil Nadu. “The advantage the Tamil Nadu boys have is that they can play these games,” said Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman.
“It gives them a chance not only to prove to others that they can still deliver the goods but also to themselves that they can perform in the longer duration games. The fact that the ICL cricketers have returned and are doing well should make the selection process for the Ranji team more competitive.”
For players from other states, though, time is running short before teams finalise their player rosters ahead of the forthcoming Ranji season. Just how they will test themselves remains unclear with even Mumbai's Kanga League being washed out.
Other ICL players have also made a mark — allrounder G Vignesh has a fifty and a hundred, left-arm spinner Syed Mohammad bagged a five-for and T Kumaran knocked off a half-century.