Former Karnataka captain C.M. Gautam has taken the long and arduous route back to First-Class cricket. Gautam’s long-held wish to wear the whites was fulfilled when he took the field for Sebastianites Cricket and Athletic Club in Sri Lanka’s Major League Tournament.
The wicketkeeper-batter played two matches for the club in June, before returning to Bengaluru as the tournament was paused to accommodate the 2023 Lanka Premier League.
Gautam, 37, will fly to Sri Lanka on Wednesday to complete his Major League Tournament season.
A little over three years ago, Gautam was among those chargesheeted in connection to corruption allegations in the 2019 Karnataka Premier League.
The case put a halt to Gautam’s career. He last represented Karnataka in October 2019, in a List A game against Goa.
In early 2022, things looked up for Gautam when the Karnataka High Court quashed the chargesheet. This cleared the way for his re-entry into official cricket.
Even during those tough times, Gautam held on to the dream.
“Even in my worst period, I was motivated to get back to playing at a high level. I had something to prove,” Gautam told Sportstar here on Monday.
“The hunger to play cricket never went away. I visualised playing First-Class cricket, be it in the Ranji Trophy or elsewhere. I’ve played matches for Bank of Baroda - I’ve kept in touch with the game. Physically I’m still in good shape. It feels great to be back,” Gautam added.
On competing in Sri Lanka, Gautam said, “The standard is very high. It is a challenge to adapt to the new conditions.”
Gautam was a standout performer across formats in his 11-year career with the Karnataka senior team. He often rescued the side with stellar performances with the bat, and his clean wicketkeeping and rallying calls from behind the stumps made him an asset.
He struck a career-high unbeaten 264 against Maharashtra in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy - a season where he finished as the second highest run-scorer of the tournament. Gautam was an integral part of the Karnataka team which twice won three domestic titles in a single season (2013-14 and 2014-15).
These highlights may be a decade old, but Gautam is confident that he still has plenty to offer.
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