Prashant Rana: Plumber for 9 years, now plays Ranji for Odisha
Prashant Rana has made it to the 20 probables for the senior Odisha Ranji team as a right-arm fast medium bowler. He worked as a plumber for nine years to become a cricketer.
BHUBANESWAR: For nearly 9 years, Prashant Rana worked as a plumber and lived in a cramped place in the millennium city of Cuttack in Odisha. But in the afternoon, he would leave everything and cycle to a cricket ground in the city where a stern looking coach would make him practise bowling for hours till sunset.
Around 100 km away, his father, a priest, and elder brother, who sold vegetables, in a village of Nayagarh district, did not have a clue that Prashant Rana, 24, became a plumber in the daytime so that he could become a cricketer.
Early this week, when Rana made it to the 20 probables for the senior Ranji team as a right-arm fast medium bowler, his father, with teary eyes, admonished him for keeping his life of a plumber a guarded secret.
“He asked me how I could keep a secret from him for so long. I told him if I told the truth, he would never have allowed me to work as a plumber. But I wanted to play cricket at any cost and so I did what I thought best,” said Rana, who would probably play his first match next week against Saurashtra on February 17 in the Elite Group D.
What makes Rana’s inclusion in the Odisha Ranji team special is that he is the first Ranji player in the state who never played in any junior cricket tournaments before being picked up for seniors.
“I don’t remember anyone in Odisha making it directly to the senior cricket team without playing in Under-19 or Under-23 tournaments. That makes him unique. With his height, nippy bowling action and ability to slog, I am sure he will go far,” said Pradeep Chauhan, his coach and former technical member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
After finishing his matriculation from village high school in Nayagarh district, Rana enrolled into a local college. But passionate about cricket, in 2011, he persuaded his father to allow him to travel to Cuttack, the headquarters of Odisha Cricket Association, so that he could pursue his love for cricket. His father initially sent him ₹2,000 a month. But, after 3-4 months, Rana’s father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he was asked to come back home or start looking for a job “either in CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), BSF (Border Security Force) or Army”.
Rana, who had already started making a name in village-level cricket tournaments, was not ready to throw in the towel. “I was so passionate about cricket that after appearing in the Class X Board examination in the morning, I would play matches in the afternoon. When my father said he could not send any money, I thought I would take up any job but continue to play cricket,” said Rana.
In 2012, he took up the job of fire safety supervisor which entailed making visits to hotels to check their fire safety measures. Though the monthly salary of ₹14,000 was good enough for him to stay and practise cricket in Bhubaneswar, he would get too exhausted by the end of the day. He quit it in a month.
Wandering around the cricket ground in Union Sporting Club of Cuttack, someone told him that if he wants, he can work as an assistant to a plumber. Rana jumped at the offer, but after working for a few days, he made a deal with his employer - he would work till 2 pm for half the wage.
“If I worked till 4 pm for full wage, then by the time I reached the club grounds, it would be nearly evening. So, I took dailywage of ₹100 instead of ₹210, finished work at 2 pm, went home to have lunch and then cycled back to the club ground for practice for at least four hours,” he said.
The daily cycling of over 40 km and little nutrition soon exhausted him. So, in 2014 he decided to buy a bike with the money he made as a plumber to make commuting easier. “I also took up independent plumbing work. But my routine remained the same - start plumbing work by 9 am so that I could work till 2 pm and then go to the club ground,” he said. He also kept sending some money to his impoverished family telling them that he was working as a fire safety supervisor with a “monthly salary of ₹14,000”.
Though he continued to practise, he could not take part in any of the junior tournaments as he could not let go of his daytime job of a plumber which brought food to the table. A glimmer of hope came when the Odisha Cricket Association in December 2020 announced Vision 2024, a plan to restructure domestic cricket and spot budding players from all the 32 district units. All the district units were asked to have at least 10 clubs, each in both junior and also in senior category. Rana initially played from Cuttack district, but later played from his native district of Nayagarh.
In October 2021, he was called to a State-level selection camp, where his nippy bowling impressed the selectors, particularly Sourajit Mohapatra, a former right arm fast-medium bowler of Odisha Ranji team in late 80s and 90s and former captain of Odisha Ranji team, Prabhanjan Mallick. The selectors probably thought Rana’s ability to bowl fast and generate bounce had the capacity to trouble batsmen.