Chandigarh: From nursery to house of second chances for cricketers
Chandigarh, the capital city of two states—Punjab and Haryana—was not too long acting as a nursery for the two states but all that changed when Chandigarh’s cricket board received affiliation from the BCCI.Updated: Jan 11, 2020 10:55 IST
Manan Vohra was primed to be the next big batting sensation of Punjab cricket, a mantle once worn with ease by the likes of Navjot Singh Sidhu and Yuvraj Singh. Vohra even raised the level of expectation with a few dazzling performances for his state side and IPL team, Kings XI Punjab. Then he lost his form for his first-class side; once the competition for his spot grew fierce, he was dropped altogether from Punjab’s playing eleven.
Now Vohra finds himself with a second chance—without having to shift out of his city, Vohra now represents and leads Chandigarh in their first ever season in the Ranji Trophy.
Chandigarh, the capital city of two states—Punjab and Haryana—was until not too long ago the nursery that produced great cricketers for both those state teams. Kapil Dev, Ashok Malhotra, Chetan Sharma and Yograj Singh were some of Chandigarh’s finest who represented Haryana, while the younger lot—Yuvraj, Dinesh Mongia, VRV Singh—plied their trade for Punjab.
But all that changed once Chandigarh’s cricket board, the Union Territory Cricket Association (UTCA), received affiliation from the apex board, BCCI, last year. The first-class team of Chandigarh was born, giving several players, who were snubbed by either Haryana or Punjab, a shot at redemption.
“I am filled with pride whenever I go for the toss wearing Chandigarh’s jersey,” says Vohra, Chandigarh’s first captain. “For the past two years I was struggling to find a place in the Punjab team. The time away helped me as I used it to think about my game and prepare. Now I am the captain of Chandigarh and it has been one great ride.”
It isn’t just the active players who have gotten a new lease thanks to Chandigarh. VRV, the former fast bowler who never quite lived up to his potential in the few ODIs and Tests that he got to play for India, is now the head coach of the new set-up and is glad for the opportunity to give back to the game. “I wanted to work with Punjab Cricket Association after my retirement from the sport, but it was UTCA that gave me the break. I’m thankful for that,” says VRV.
Assisting VRV in the role of a batting coach is Ravneet Ricky, who made it all the way to the India Under-19 team along with Yuvraj, and lending depth to the batting order with his priceless experience is 32-year old Uday Kaul.
“I was going to move to Nagaland this season, but then Chandigarh got their affiliation,” says 32-year-old Kaul, who is two matches away from 100 first-class appearances.
It is a mishmash bunch, one that is fuelled by their collective drive to prove a point. And so far, it has worked. In their maiden Ranji appearance, Chandigarh have a golden opportunity of getting promoted to the top tier, currently in third place in the Plate Division.
In their four outings so far, Chandigarh beat Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya and they might have won their other two games as well, had the weather not robbed them of victories against Bihar and Nagaland.
While the second-chancers are playing for more than pride, Chandigarh is also living up to reputation of unearthing young and raw talent.
Like 20-year-old Mohammed Arslan Khan, who in his very first Ranji game this year struck an unbeaten 233—just 35 runs shy of the highest score on debut by an Indian batsman in first-class cricket.
Apart from Khan, two other first-class debutants in Ankit Kaushik and Raman Bishnoi have struck two centuries each in the course of this season. And all this has made the legends of Chandigarh cricket, who never got to represent their city, swell with pride.
“Chandigarh deserved a team of its own long ago,” says Yograj, who has been playing his part in an informal way by giving his inputs to the UTCA. “There have been so many talented cricketers in the last three decades who have not got enough chances either from Punjab and Haryana. And, as a result, they stopped playing. It’s time to surge ahead and give Chandigarh cricketers their due right.”