Murasingh looks for motivation after IPL snub: What is the point of performing in Ranji Trophy if you don’t play for India?

In this interview, Tripura’s Manisankar Murasingh talks about his multiple IPL snubs, dealing with setbacks and more.

Published : Jan 14, 2024 21:00 IST , AGARTALA - 7 MINS READ

Murasingh going through his batting drills during the sidelines of a Ranji Trophy game.
Murasingh going through his batting drills during the sidelines of a Ranji Trophy game. | Photo Credit: SANTADEEP DEY

Murasingh going through his batting drills during the sidelines of a Ranji Trophy game. | Photo Credit: SANTADEEP DEY

At the Maharaja Bir Bikram Singh Stadium in Agartala, the press box doubles up as a lobby for ex-cricketers to watch games. Even though the two sections of the wood-panelled hall are separated by a bohemian divider, conversations—happening over endless cups of lemon tea—often tend to spill over to the other side.

The thickly-accented Bengali, indigenous to this part of the country, may sometimes pose a problem for the non-resident, but one can safely say that the word ‘ Mura’ is an integral part of these chats.

The word roughly translates to ‘mine’ in English. It is also the name the locals have lovingly assigned to the state’s biggest cricketing star, the one they proudly claim to be ‘theirs’—Manisankar Murasingh.

Murasingh, who has been creating waves in domestic cricket for quite a while now. The pace-bowling all-rounder, whose face is the very definition of calm, his eyes impenetrable. It doesn’t matter if he is in the middle of a serious round-table chat with the boys, discussing the weather with the match referee, petting a streetie or things are going against him during a match; nothing seems to shake the man. The only sign of aggression, if we can call it that, is a loud grunt that reverberates through the ground during his unassuming follow-through.

The Indian Premier League is the elephant in the room for the pace-bowling all-rounder. He was snubbed again after being in the auction pool.

“There was not much of a reaction. People spoke highly of me before the auctions. The bidding wasn’t under my control. Yes, I expected a few teams to raise the paddles. Especially the teams by whom I was invited to attend the trials. They had said this year I might make the cut. I have been ready every year. That’s not an issue. When it has to happen, it will,” Murasingh tells Sportstar.

Murasingh’s numbers would tell you there is no reason why he should be overlooked. He is his state side’s highest wicket-taker and run-getter in First Class cricket. From 82 games across 14 seasons, he has picked 251 wickets and scored 3,402 runs. The 2019-20 season stands out, with Murasingh averaging 42.71 with the bat, including two hundreds and two fifties. He also had 49 scalps, which included a seven-wicket haul against Services.

Indeed, he was highly spoken of ahead of the bidding event in Dubai this year. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly, who was named Tripura Tourism’s brand ambassador recently, had said at an event: “I follow the players who are playing for Tripura, and I am impressed by the way Manisankar Murasingh plays in various tournaments. I hope he will play in the IPL as he has already been shortlisted.” India international and Tripura skipper Wriddhiman Saha rates his deputy highly as well.

Another year, same story

Murasingh has appeared for trials of multiple IPL sides, from the Mumbai Indians in 2019 to the Gujarat Titans in 2022. The period ahead of the auction for the 2024 edition was no different.

“I had gone for the Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders trials. KKR never raised my hopes, but the guys at RR had asked me to be ready. The trials took place when the group phase ended for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the T20s (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy),” he says.

Murasingh at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Singh Stadium in Agartala.
Murasingh at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Singh Stadium in Agartala. | Photo Credit: SANTADEEP DEY

Murasingh at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Singh Stadium in Agartala. | Photo Credit: SANTADEEP DEY

When the topic of Ganguly heaping praise on him came up, he said, “I did receive a call from the Delhi Capitals (Ganguly is DC’s Director of Cricket) as well for attending its trials. But during that time, I was in the UK to play in the Minor Counties after playing the Duleep and Deodhar Trophy. There was a week-long off-season camp in Delhi starting August 6. My flight to the UK was on the 5th.

READ | Tripura vs Tamil Nadu, Ranji 2023/24: Dense fog forces loss of play on Day 3

“My tickets were done. After playing the East Zone vs South Zone final (Deodhar Trophy, August 3), one of the scouts asked me to come to Delhi. I told him that if the trials happen again in September or after the T20s, I will be in India. I apprised him of the situation, saying I was paying a lot for my flight tickets from my pocket. They (Philadelphia CC of the Northeast Premier League) only paid 50 percent of my fare. DC told me another camp may happen, but I never got a call after that.”

Murasingh has just turned 31, and maybe, somewhere deep down, he has accepted things as they are. “ Dimaag mein toh aayega hi (It does play on the mind). Everybody has the notion that once you perform in the IPL, you come into the India limelight. Coming here (at the domestic level) and performing again and again is tough. I have given up hope now. I think age is also a factor. I don’t think they prefer guys over 30. My juniors rightly keep telling me that I should try in the IPL. What is the point of performing in the Ranji Trophy if you don’t play for India eventually? You see, so many guys are performing here. How does it matter? Who is noticing? If you can play the IPL and play for the country, one should do that only then.”

Domestic leagues have started to struggle for relevance, with India’s cash-rich T20 franchise league gradually becoming a selector’s favourite. Murasingh says, “There are many players not playing Ranji or the Vijay Hazare Trophy. They only play SMAT or the IPL. They perform in the IPL, and then it is all but assured that you will play India A, B or C, at least. In Zimbabwe and on smaller tours, you get call-ups. Except for those who really want to play long formats, I don’t think there are many youngsters now who would want to play here, looking at the bigger picture.”

Dealing with setbacks

Picking himself up every time there is a setback, Murasingh returns to where it all started—in the quaint surroundings of his hometown—to fight for his State in domestic competitions. Once he is here, his focus is unwavering. He believes it is Saha, who joined the side in 2022, who has helped him deal with issues maturely.

“If there is a highly experienced player in your dugout, it obviously makes a lot of impact. When you share a dressing room with individuals like these, you tend to learn and gain a lot. You can share a lot with him, simulate crunch situations in a match, and try to emulate their thought process. Ideally, I would want him to not leave us. Even if he stops being a full-time player, he should spend more time with us as a mentor or coach,” Murasingh says.

Tripura has lately improved as a unit by leaps and bounds, decades after it became a full member of the BCCI in 1984. The Northeast side may have won only 10 games since its inception in 1985–86, but in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy, it downed the big boys of Mumbai and Saurashtra. Not just that, it started this First Class season with its biggest-ever victory—against Goa by 237 runs.

“Things are improving. It has become all the better since Wriddhi da’s (Saha’s) arrival. I can say we have developed a lot at the senior level. The mentorship has become better, and players have started receiving more freedom. Because I am the vice-captain, it keeps me more in touch with Wriddhi da. He says which areas I should be targeting while bowling, the kind of field placements required, etc. He listens to all I have to say. Very rarely will he oppose what you are saying. He respects everybody’s opinions. He tells me: ‘If something doesn’t seem to be working, know that I am behind you’. When a captain, who is such an accomplished guy, speaks to you like that, it gives you a lot of confidence.”

For now, the focus is on the ongoing domestic season. And the ongoing domestic season only. What the future holds isn’t Murasingh’s concern anymore. He will face it as it comes. “I never plan ahead. I try to follow the process. I used to overthink a lot earlier; now that is gone.”

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