It is a sunny afternoon and, for the month of October, it feels like the heat is on. Goa were bowled out for 42 on the first day of a three-day contest and played a much better game in the second innings. Angst had turned to hope.
Standing in a corner, distanced from the debate on how the boys had shown an improvement after the first day was Shamba Molu Naik Desai, the new vice president of Goa Cricket Association (GCA).
Shamba is not new to cricket but being part of GCA is new to him and yet the 42 year old from Canacona has a perspective of cricket that fits the demanour of a person worth trusting. Shamba does not talk much. But, when he decides, he gets your ear.
“Goa is not like other States. When it rains in Goa, it rains. The grass grows rough, the playable grounds become unplayable and for literally four months of the year no cricket can be played. Where do you expect these boys to sharpen their skills?” asks Shamba as Goa’s Sanath prepares his lineup for the next ball.
“You can see the desire in them. The will to win is alive in all these boys. They fared poorly yesterday but they are putting up a fight today. The boys do not have a platform to perform on because we do not have any grounds for these boys to have match practise. I think, this is one of the main reasons why they look to struggle,” assumes Shamba as one Goan batsman sends the ball to the fence.
“I grew up in Canacona where most of us play cricket. We play on any ground available or any surface. Boys from my village dream of playing on a pitch like this one and yet the spirit to play never stops because the game drives many crazy. It is about the game and the game blooms when there is infrastructure,” thinks Samba.
“Today, whatever we are trying to develop is attempted to be sabotaged by disgruntled elements. These are people working against cricket in Goa,” asserts Shamba.
Shamba loves cricket and with it shares a second love for hospitality. Everyone loves to eat and eating stops being a necessity when what you are eating is prepared with love. And, he sees a line between food and cricket fostered by love.
“Cricket is a game that needs to be understood and one can do that without playing the game. Building a stadium is as easy as stopping a stadium from being built. This happens when interests are vested. Cricket in Goa is being played at personal levels by a few individuals who do not have the game at heart and that suffering percolates to these boys,” opines Shamba as the batsman from Goa tries to stave the Kerala attack.
“Since we have no ground for the boys to play competitive cricket, we (The GCA Managing committee) has decided to take a ground on lease in Karnataka for ten years. It does not rain there when it rains here and the boys can enjoy the facility. They can play competitive cricket with the teams from that State and then we will not have to introspect on why our boys are playing badly,” muses Shamba.
This is one reason. There could be more but, Shamba believes in enjoying one tune at a time.
“By being in GCA, don’t expect miracles from me. Just like these boys lack match practise, I lack the expertise but I have a desire to learn and cricket needs to be caressed today, not hurt. The ball may be hard but if the hardest player can be softened why can’t a ball. It takes time and when it does soften, you will see the spark glow in youngsters,” affirms Shamba.
As the umpires call the end of days play, Shamba is not around. He may be on his way back home to Canacona or having tea with friends. It does not really matter because Shamba knows a strong mind and an open heart is an antidote for what the game lacks in Goa.