Have the Railways been struggling to get players together for the Ranji Trophy this season and have they been forcing them to play by intimidating them?
The Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) had short-listed some players for the Ranji Trophy trials, out of which 16 were to be chosen to represent it in the national championships. Among others, the list, which is with HT, included Uttar Pradesh's Shivakant Shukla and Rajasthan's Sumit Mathur.
“I was asked to appear for trials and my refusal didn't go down well with the Railways Board. I was threatened. I have received two to three calls, telling me that I'll be charge-sheeted and might lose my job,” said Shivakant who is with the UP team in Rajkot. “I have been doing well with UP and want to play for them.”
Shivakant's team is in the Super League and his stand may make sense. The case of Sumit Mathur is, however, very intriguing. Rajasthan are in the Plate League, while Railways are in the higher bracket --- the Super League. Still, Mathur prefers to play for the Plate League team.
Asked why he had done that, Mathur replied, “The atmosphere within the Railways camp is not good. Besides, I don't think I could have got a chance to play in the eleven. I have heard there'll be action taken against me.”
A common concern among players is whether Railways would stay in the Super League this season.
Both Mathur and Shivakant were asked to represent the Railways in the JP Atray tournament but neither played.
Bhavik Thaker, who plays for Gujarat, says he wasn't given a No Objection Certificate by the Gujarat association. “I had been playing for Gujarat before I joined Railways so I need the NOC from my association. I was approached last year and this year as well.” But he says he wants to play for Gujarat.
Asked about this issue, Rakesh Yadav, the director of sports, RSPB said in unequivocal terms that action will be taken against players not representing Railways. “We have employed them. They are bound to play for us. In the past too, we have taken action against Bengal players like Sourashish Lahiri and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. We will most likely take action against these players too.”
Some within the Railways are not happy at this, however. They call this preferential treatment. Said a player, “What about Yere Goud (a senior player), who has played for Railways as and when he's wanted. When we were in the Plate league, he went to play for his home state. This season, despite no performance to back him, at close to 40, he is playing here because he wouldn't get a chance in his home side. Why didn't the Railway Board take action against him then?”