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Pursuing the Indian dream

Sayan Ghosh

For former Hong Kong cricket team skipper Anshuman Rath, their match against India in Asia Cup 2018 holds a special place in his heart. Chasing a target of 286, Rath stitched together a 174-run partnership with opening partner Nizakat Khan and it looked like they were on the verge of a historic victory against one of the top ranked sides in the world. Unfortunately, that was not the case as Hong Kong kept losing wickets at regular intervals and they ultimately fell short by 26 runs.

Although the match ended in defeat, it was a turning point for Rath who was already considering his options outside Hong Kong and the knock was exactly the confidence boost he needed.

“I was considering a move to India but my mind wasn’t hundred percent sure because of the competition. That game was an eye opener for me. We were playing one of the best teams in the world and we almost won. On a personal level, it also reiterated the fact that I needed to trust in my abilities and there was no reason why I could not succeed in India,” Rath said.

However, it took him some time to make his move to the domestic circuits of India. The 21-year-old continued to play for Hong Kong and he also took part in the Canada T20 League where he represented Edmonton Royals. A county stint with Middlesex age-group teams allowed him to gain some much needed experience but even that came to a screeching halt due to visa issues.

However, the young wicket-keeper batsman kept his dreams alive by finally making his move to the Indian domestic circuit as he registered with the Vidarbha Cricket Association as a local player.

“I have been following the domestic scene for some time and now, I will be doing it even more. I know that Vidarbha are the champions but their junior teams and the infrastructure is also quite impressive. There is a solid structure here and that is something I needed for my growth.”

The lack of central contracts in Hong Kong has been a major reason behind a lot of players opting out of the national cricket team. Cricketers like Rath and New Zealand international Mark Chapman came out of the Hong Kong system, but the need for full-time cricket resulted in them moving to other countries. Rath looks back fondly on his time with Hong Kong but there is a clear disappointment in his voice while talking about the lack of proper structure which forced him to make the move to India.

“From playing in the UK and India to playing for Hong Kong, I have seen both ends of the spectrum. Associate nations have a major lack of structure and if you want to play full-time, that is not a good thing. There is a lack of security and even financially, it is not a viable option for most cricketers,”

“Look at Mark Chapman. He left Hong Kong and now he is playing for New Zealand. Jamie Atkinson retired at 25 and he became a teacher. This is very unfortunate that the players could not stick around and that is one of the major issues when it comes to the associate teams,” he explained.

Since making his debut for Hong Kong in 2014, Rath was one of the integral parts of the team and he proved his mettle over and over again with brilliant performances. However, the move to India means that he will have to finish the one year cooling-off period to be eligible for selection.

The move also comes with no guarantees as Vidarbha have won the Ranji Trophy title twice in the last two years and breaking into the team will be quite a daunting task for the youngster. When asked about the challenges, Rath admitted that it was scary for him but he is ready for all kinds of challenges. “My goal is to make the Vidarbha Ranji team next season and also to hopefully find a team in the IPL 2020 draft which I will enter as a local player. Coming to an unfamiliar setting is always quite daunting but if I give my hundred percent, I see no reason why I won’t be able to achieve my goals.”

“I’m not someone who looks too much into the future. But, I would like to achieve my short term goals and if you ask me long term, I would definitely like to play for India one day,” he added.

(HT Media)

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