Ranji Trophy: Kanwaljit Singh, the man behind Nagaland's success

Nagaland coach Kanwaljit assures his side will be even better in the next Ranji Trophy season.

Three of the finest spinners from India - Bishen Singh Bedi, S.L. Venkatapathi Raju and Kanwaljit Singh - sharing a lighter moment at a promotional event in Hyderabad.   -  V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Former India A off-spinner Kanwaljit Singh accomplished a mission as a coach at 63. With his coaching and guidance, Nagaland qualified for the knockout phase of the Ranji Trophy for the first time since its debut in 2018-19 season.

Kanwaljit was known for his indefatigable spirit to keep going even when the selectors repeatedly snubbed him despite his 369 wickets from 111 games. He said the biggest task was to instil self-belief.

“By nature, the Naga cricketers are very strong and energetic. Once weensured they got the basics right, the focus was more on mental toughness. I always believed that however talented you are, you have to have the ability to raise the bar under pressure,” Kanwaljit told Sportstar on Friday after his sixth consecutive season with Nagaland.

“The fact that we just had a three-day preparatory camp this season before Ranji Trophy began and still managed to make it to the pre-quarterfinal losing to Jharkhand eventually is proof of the kind of all-round talent available with Nagaland,” he said.

READ| Ranji Trophy: Jharkhand qualifies after dull draw against Nagaland

“Yes, if only our fielders held on to the catches and backed the bowlers, it could have been a different proposition against Jharkhand in that high-scoring match,” the former Hyderabad captain said.

“It is, no doubt, a very satisfying season for the team and me too as a coach. It is a different kind of challenge when the players give their best and I am glad they played with a sense of pride and great confidence,” Kanwaljit said. "This is how I grew up watching someone like the great Bedi Sir (Bishen Singh Bedi) or playing along with Raju (S.L. Venkatapathi Raju)," he said.

“As we all know, for a team from the North-East to make it thus far is no means an ordinary feat. And having made it to the Elite Group for next season, I can assure you Nagaland will be a force to reckon with and turn the tables on some of the big guns too,” he said.

Reflecting on some of the individuals in the Nagaland team, Kanwaljit said he was highly impressed with the 16-year-old leggie Khrievitso Kense spotted by captain Rongsen Jonathan. “He is a rare talent and even attended the Mumbai Indians camp too. Even Punjab wanted him this season but unfortunately he was injured,” he said.

“Then, there is Rongsen, one of the most impressive batters and in bowling 21-year-old Chopise Sangtam Hopongkyu is a very nippy customer. Overall, the team had the perfect balance to name a couple of real good talent. And, it is only a question of experience of playing big games before they get noticed on the national radar,” Kanwaljit concluded.

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