In August, Anshuman Rath was playing under Pakistan international Mohammad Hafeez at the Global T20 Canada. It feels unreal to picture him in a local T20 tournament in Nagpur, but that’s the reality and it looks promising.
Former Hong Kong superstar Rath — who relocated to India to find a footing in domestic cricket and structure his career — has signed up with Vidarbha. He has moved to the Orange City and taken a flat on rent.
At present, Rath needs to finish the one year cooling-off period to be eligible for selection but the left-hander already started the hard yard with club cricket. Representing local club MSSC in the A division, he scored an unbeaten 38 against Eleven Stars in the annual local T20 tournament of the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) on Saturday.
“I came in at No. 4 in my first match in India but unfortunately, we lost the game,” he told Sportstar .
“I am based in Nagpur and I am currently a Vidarbha-registered player. I kickstarted all the paperwork in early October. It all happened in a flash. I wish to represent the state from the next season and as of now, I will be playing club cricket. The VCA got me registered as a local player.”
Training at Nagpur Cricket Academy fast-tracked his orientation on Indian wickets. “Playing for Hong Kong and travelling to different places has helped me adjust to these wickets a little faster than what others would. The facilities have been great. The turf nets are good and the academy is pretty much open from dawn to dusk with an indoor wicket. I am still getting used to the wickets and I have definitely got the resources now,” said Rath.
“There is no real coach. It is more of do-it-yourself but the main guy who organised this is Madhav Bakre [the founder of the academy]. He has made my transition to India very smooth.”
Playing for Hong Kong had certain demerits. There weren’t enough games and being a player from the second-tier associate member of the International Cricket Council, he could not obtain visa for English county despite having an offer from Middlesex.
“Players tend to develop more in a structured system rather than a scattered system. In Hong Kong, seeing all the talent that hasn’t really come up, it is due to disorganisation or lack of facilities. I didn’t want that to be an excuse. I was doing my research and saw Vidarbha as a great opportunity to explore. They have had a lot of success in age-group cricket. It looks like an organised structure,” said Rath, who believes it will be tough for him to break into a side like Mumbai or Delhi. “The competition is very high.”
Rath led Hong Kong in the Asia Cup in 2018, and his side almost got the better of India. Chasing 286, the associates fell short by 26 runs, but openers Rath (73) and Nizakat Khan (92) had a dream opening partnership of 174 runs.
“That game was a reality check for me, and a turning point for me in deciding where to move. The highs and lows of associate cricket is that one day, you may be close to beating India and then, beg for games. Then, I decided to leave my position in Hong Kong,” he added.
Bakre, the owner of the academy who helped Rath find a club, said, “Anshuman came with his parents and he liked the facilities. He is very down to earth. We never felt that an international cricketer is training at the academy.”
Ranji Trophy will be a long wait but Rath will be eligible for the IPL 2020 player draft as a local uncapped player.