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Rajasthan blossom on borrowed talent

cricket Updated: Dec 29, 2010 23:41 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Come up with as many cliches as you can for Rajasthan this season - Unity in diversity, land of opportunity. They all fit.

The playing eleven — about 60% have roots outside the state — turned out to be the right mix when they ousted defending champions Mumbai to enter the Ranji semifinals.

Many of them come to the state either as students or because of their parents' job transfers, and work through district cricket to qualify for the Ranji side. Pacers Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar, key cogs in their wheel, are from Uttar Pradesh but found their bearings in Rajasthan, first in district cricket and then at senior level.

Three established players who came from outside have played the mentoring role, which has been appreciated as the state soaks in ecstasy. Former Delhi opener Aakash Chopra, one of their three professionals, says: "It is a happy bunch and we as senior professionals play the role of guides.”

Former Maharashtra batsman Hrishikesh Kanitkar, captain of the side, and ex-Orissa player Rashmi Ranjan Parida are the other two seniors.

The variety in the squad is also being seen as healthy and helping nip any local politics in the bud.

Ajay Jadeja, who captained Rajasthan a few years ago, makes no bones of the problems that have plagued the state's cricket. He was inducted as captain-cum-coach to improve things but soon fell out after internal politics, including differences among players, became too hot to handle.

"There has absolutely been no cricket in the state. There are no roots and there's no way local talent can be honed. Even during their golden period in the 60s and 70s, many stars came from outside like Salim Durrani who is from Saurashtra," he says.

"There was just too much of politics. Even their biggest star in recent times, Gagan Khoda, has played most of his cricket in Delhi."

But at ground level, things perhaps are changing. Sanjay Dikshit, secretary of the Rajasthan Cricket Association, says: "We now have a good system in place and the results show that. Our under-19 and under-16 teams are in the knockouts."

Of course, there are critics.

Shamsher Singh, head of the Cricket Players Association of Rajasthan, says, "It is hurting talent at the local level. Few Rajasthan players are getting a look-in. That way, even India can hire a few professional fast bowlers for international level."

Dikshit is unfazed. "The rule is that a person should be a domicile of Rajasthan for 10 years to qualify. The BCCI has no objection so what's the problem. And aren't there other states with similar players."

Whatever, this talent flow is boosting weaker teams, extending careers of players who had started with major teams. The money in the game helps.