Ex-India cricket team stumper Ajay Ratra takes over as Punjab Ranji coach | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Ex-India cricket team stumper Ajay Ratra takes over as Punjab Ranji coach

Yuvraj Singh, who is now trying to resurrect his career through domestic cricket with the Punjab Ranji Trophy team, would enjoy working with new coach Ajay Ratra, a former teammate from India senior and U-19 cricket squads

cricket Updated: Sep 28, 2017 19:11 IST
Shalini Gupta
Punjab Ranji Trophy team’s new coach Ajay Ratra (left) with Yuvraj Singh (centre) during a training session in Mohali on Thursday.
Punjab Ranji Trophy team’s new coach Ajay Ratra (left) with Yuvraj Singh (centre) during a training session in Mohali on Thursday.(HT Photo)

The camaraderie between Yuvraj Singh and the new Punjab Ranji coach Ajay Ratra was evident at the IS Bindra PCA Stadium nets in Mohali on Thursday during the Ranji Trophy preparatory camp.

Yuvraj Singh and Ajay Ratra go back a long way. They were part of the India U-19 team which clinched the World Cup in Sri Lanka under Mohammed Kaif in 2000. Yuvraj is now trying to resurrect his career through domestic cricket, Ratra is trying his hand at coaching.

Ajay Ratra had at 20 become the youngest wicketkeeper to score a Test century, and only the second Indian wicketkeeper to do so overseas. “Although I’ve been associated with the India U-19 teams for the last two years at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) as wicketkeeping and fielding coach, being the Punjab team’s coach is my first major coaching assignment. It is exciting to work with a side which has a good bunch of talented players.

“The Punjab outfit just needs to be guided well to convert its potential into performance this season,” said the 35-year-old Ratra, who scored 115 not out in the first innings in Antigua in 2002.

Ajay Ratra, in his first-class career of 99 matches, scored 4029 runs at an average of 30.29 with eight centuries and 17 half-centuries. He played six Tests, scoring a century. Ratra played for Haryana and Tripura during his domestic career.

Although he expressed interest to be associated with Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) as coach, there was no response from the association. “I informed HCA I was keen on taking up a coach’s role for any of its teams, but there was no response from them. I am happy to be with Punjab which has top-class facilities, brilliant support staff and helpful officials,” said Ratra, who quit first-class cricket in 2015.

“I have never held grudges in life. I am a very content person. I am happy the way my career panned out. I am looking forward to this new innings of my life with positivity,” he said.

It is learnt Ratra was roped in by the Punjab Cricket Association on the recommendation of Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. While Harbhajan Singh, 37, will lead Punjab, Yuvraj will be his deputy this season. Yuvraj Singh, the star of India’s 2007 World Twenty20 and 2011 World Cup teams, was dropped from the India team for the tour of Sri Lanka. The upcoming season would provide a chance for the left-hander to regain form.

“Yuvraj knows best what he needs to do to be back in the national reckoning. He has taken the task of attaining top-class fitness very seriously. He is working out hard in the gym, playing in the nets for long hours and also taking keen interest in shaping the Punjab team. We won’t mind Yuvi’s absence from the team if he gets selected for the Indian team (laughs). He is a fighter who won’t give up that easily. He should make the most of the season,” said Ratra. Punjab will also have an assistant coach, fielding coach and bowling coach besides physiotherapists.

Punjab had a disappointing Ranji season last year, failing to qualify for the knockout stage. “Last season was taxing due to neutral venues, which involved a lot of travelling. We are aiming at providing recovery periods during the training sessions... Punjab will be a different side this time around.”

Punjab face Himachal Pradesh in their Ranji Trophy opener at Dharamsala on October 6.