It won’t be an exaggeration to call Anustup Majumdar the ‘Feluda’ of Bengal cricket. The 38-year-old, who is a die-hard fan of the super sleuth, bears a striking resemblance to the man when it comes to his attitude on and off the field.
He loves adventures, exploring the world, classical music, and of course, cricket - which over the last two decades has been his passion and profession.
Majumdar’s love affair with Feluda and his creator Satyajit Ray started when his father introduced him to ‘ Sonar Kella’, ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ and ‘ Joto Kando Kathmandutey’ in his childhood days. Back in those days, when the Internet was mostly unheard of, Majumdar’s world would revolve around Ray’s classical works. Detective stories would keep him busy most afternoons.
And, they say, old habits die hard. Even after so many years, you would find old books of Feluda and Ray in his suitcase as Majumdar - who goes by the nickname ‘Ruku’ (incidentally the character played by then child actor Jit Bose in ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ )- travels around the country with the Bengal team during the Ranji Trophy.
“I have requested a close friend, who knows the Ray family well, to take me to his Bishop Lefroy Road residence once the domestic season is over. It has been a childhood dream to visit Ray’s residence and I want to fulfil that dream,” Majumdar tells Sportstar.
Of course, before he fulfills his childhood dream, Majumdar also hopes to tick another box - win a Ranji Trophy for Bengal. “That’s the only inspiration I have now. I am 38, and I know that I won’t make it to the Indian team, nor would I bag an IPL contract, but even then, I continue playing the sport because I want to win a Ranji Trophy title for Bengal. That’s what keeps me going,” he says.
Season after season, he has bailed Bengal out from tough spots. And this year, too, things have been no different. After having started his Ranji Trophy campaign with scores of 1 and 83 against Uttar Pradesh, Majumdar has now raised expectations with a 159 against Himachal Pradesh, followed by a 90 against Baroda. A couple of days ago, he even came up with a fine 145 as Bengal defeated Haryana by an innings and 50 runs to assure itself of a berth in the knockouts.
Over the last few years, Majumdar has been so consistent that it has made several locals come up with a catchy chant - “ Sheet grishsho bawrsha, Anustup e bhawrsha…” And Majumdar himself has come across such posts on social media, which basically refers to him as the man of all seasons.
“I have seen a few of those posts, and they are funny,” he says with a smile. “I love taking challenges. I somehow get that kick when the scoreboard reads, say 40 for 5, and I know that I need to go out and hang in there. I look for such moments.”
“I love adventure sports, and enjoy trekking. I want to do a lot of adventures and I think when I am on the field, I draw inspiration from all that. When I visualise a match situation, I believe I would need to rescue the team in a tough situation and I think that has helped me immensely over the years,” Majumdar says.
The right-handed batter had started his journey in 2004, and despite ups and downs, he made his presence felt in the IPL as well, featuring for Pune Warriors. Those moments were shortlived, but in the 2019-20 season, he was back in the limelight for the two crucial hundreds that took Bengal to its first Ranji final in 13 years, before the side lost to Saurashtra in the summit clash.
“I believe that most of my successful knocks have come after I was 33. If you look at my career before that, you would find that I failed on most occasions. But with age came maturity. Now, the fear of failure does not affect me. When I was young, I would often be afraid of failure, but I think I have passed that time,” he says.
From 2014-15 to 2015-16, Majumdar had to play for Railways because he had a job to keep. Although opportunities hardly came his way, he hung in there for a secure future. However, in 2015-16, he got a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from Railways and was back to Bengal again. But by the end of the 2017-18 season, Railways called him back and that’s when he had to choose between a secure job and playing for his home State.
Majumdar, a die-hard Christopher Nolan fan, chose the latter. Quitting a job at that age wasn’t easy. But with the help of his wife Sonali - an IT professional - Majumdar could follow his dreams.
As he looks back at those days, Majumdar believes that fatherhood has changed him, making him more disciplined. He has an eight-year-old son Richik - a third-standard student at the MP Birla Foundation School in Kolkata. “I have a family to run and have loads of responsibility. And I think that responsibility has helped me play good cricket. I am not sure if one can relate to it, but that responsibility has certainly helped me a lot in life,” he says.
“It has brought discipline in my life, because I know I need to follow a timeline in terms of everything - paying my son’s school fees on time, taking him to school, or for extra-curricular activities. I was not disciplined in terms of timing even after marriage, but fatherhood has brought about a change in me.”
“You need to manage the schedule well and bring out time for training, gym, and other things, without affecting other family commitments. Those things actually helped me a lot,” he adds.
He starts his day early by dropping off Richik to school and during pre-season, makes it a point to find some time for training. “I am not someone who is involved in rigorous training. But over the last few years, I have been able to streamline the process. Especially in the off-season, I make it a point to train for two hours a day for five days. I consider that like a savings account and that’s my only investment and I know, if I can take care of my body, that investment will give me returns for the next six-seven months, once the domestic season begins.”
A pragmatic approach towards life and the game has yielded results, as he could overcome the challenges without reading between the lines. “When I was in my mid-20s, I would be disappointed if I had been left out of the squad. But I have passed that age, and instead of being disappointed, I try to self-analyse in terms of ‘what went wrong?’ or ‘why am I dropped?’ I have realised that instead of blaming people, it is important to look at your own performance and work on the weak links,” he says.
Despite making his debut in 2004, Majumdar wasn’t part of the two Ranji Trophy finals that Bengal played in 2006 and 2007. His only appearance in the final came in 2020 against Saurashtra. But this time, under Manoj Tiwary’s captaincy and Laxmi Ratan Shukla’s coaching, Bengal has shown promises of ending the title jinx. And, Majumdar, too, wants to make a contribution.
“For us, donning the Bengal jersey is a matter of pride and as seniors, we are aware of our responsibilities. In crunch times, the team obviously expects the seniors to step up and take the onus. Obviously, we rely a lot on the younger players, but it is also important that the senior players should rise to the occasion and guide the team in difficult times. That’s the conversation we normally have in the dressing room,” he reveals.
It is this self-belief and confidence that helped Bengal edge past Uttar Pradesh, Baroda and Haryana in the group league fixtures. In Lahli, a couple of days ago, Majumdar did feel a bit low after missing out on a 150 by just five runs, but he has learned to understand the bigger picture.
“I have learned to balance out things,” he says, adding with a smile, “But my son, who I call Pope, has huge expectations from me. At times, he gets disappointed if I miss out on a century or fail to convert starts. He makes it a point to call me up wherever I am, and makes his point clear. These little things keep me going.” In turn, Majumdar’s indomitable spirit and never-say-die attitude that keeps Bengal going, season after season.