The Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) has roped in former India left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju as their chief coach for the 2008-09 Ranji season.
However, the availability of Raju, who is the South Zone selector in the Dilip Vengsarkar-chaired panel, will be known only after the BCCI annual general meeting on September 27-28, which will decide whether the former India spinner gets an extension.
"If I don't get an extension, I'll be happy to take over the coaching of Orissa. So we have to wait till September 27," Raju told PTI from Hyderabad.
In another boost to Orissa cricket, Vedanta Alumunium Limited will sponsor the state teams (men and women) at all age-group levels, OCA secretary Asirbad Behera said today.
Giving details about Raju's appointment, Behera said, "Being a former India player, having played in World Cup, Raju's experience will be a big advantage for Orissa. Besides experience, he (Raju) is a qualified Level-III BCCI coach. He's also very close to our president (Ranjib Biswal), so he is our automatic choice. We hope to get him as our chief coach."
Raju will replace Abakash Khatua, who helped the team to finish fourth in Group B of Ranji Super League last season.
Khatua, however, will be in charge of the fielding department, Behera added.
"Keeping in view of the professionalism in cricket, from this season onwards we have appointed specialist coaches in all the three departments (batting, bowling and fielding). Our aim is to take Orissa cricket to a higher level," Behera said.
A veteran of 28 Tests and 53 ODIs, Raju made the India cut after a fruitful Ranji season in 1989-90 which saw him bag 32 wickets.
Raju's entry in the late 80s was seen as a successor to Maninder Singh and the finger spinner settled down well into the side, bowling India to victory in the one-off Test against Sri Lanka in 1990-91.
Following a forgettable 1997-98 series against Australia, Raju went on the downslide but remained the mainstay of Hyderabad's bowling before calling it quits in December 2004.
Orissa begin their season with the Inter-District Kalahandi Cup one-day tournament (from September 15-24), which is the selection trials for Ranji probables.
The probables will attend the Ranji camp which will begin at the Barabati Stadium from October 10.
The 2008-09 Ranji season begins on November 3.
Orissa support staff:
Venkatpathy Raju (chief coach, Ranji Trophy and U-22 team); Abakash Khatua (fielding coach); Daniel Rout (batting coach); Sourajit Mohapatra (bowling coach); Dhirendra Kumar Rout (U-22 coach); Sushil Kumar (chief coach for under-19 and u-16 age groups); Sushil Mishra (under-16).