Railways' concerns

If Railways loses its vote in the Board, some of the players feel they would lose the power to protest.

“I am sure losing a voice in the Board would demotivate the Railways administrators," says for mer Railways player Sanjay Bangar.   -  Vijay Soneji

Sanjay Bangar was an integral part of the Railways cricket team which won its maiden Ranji Trophy title in 2002 at the Karnail Singh Stadium. It had lost the previous season final to Baroda in a bitter away contest marred by poor umpiring but Railways crushed the same opponent at home.

Murali Kartik, skipper Abhay Sharma, Amit Pagnis, Yere Goud, Raja Ali, J. P. Yadav and Kulamani Parida were some key performers. They were instrumental in hauling Railways into national reckoning literally from obscurity. From rolling the pitch and setting up ‘nets’ for practice, the players did everything. Without ever complaining even when accommodated in dormitories.

Things improved. With the Ranji Trophy win, the avenues opened for Railways. Players from various States competed for a place in the Railways squad. And within the corridors of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Railways gained a voice.

But there is concern among Railway cricketers that it could be back to square one. If Railways loses its vote in the Board, some of the players feel they would lose the power to protest.

“All institutions are democratic in structure but Railways is different in the sense it accommodates players from various States. It is an integration of players from many regions. I think if the Railways loses its vote, it will also lose its voice to stand up for its players,” said Bangar, now an assistant coach of the India team.

The one-State-one-vote recommendation impacts Mumbai, Maharashtra, Vidarbha, Gujarat, Baroda and Saurashtra. But as Bangar noted, “Railways accommodates so many players from so many States but the Honourable Supreme Court is best to make a decision in this regard.”

The fear is that if Railways loses its vote in the Board, it may make cricket a low priority sport. Being Government employees, Railway players were not considered for the post of National selectors even when it was not a paid job.

Since the time National selectors came to be paid handsomely for their work, former Railway players were ruled out for the job. Now, as Bangar, a former Railway employee, observed, it may result in cricket losing its priority in the organisation. “I am sure losing a voice in the Board would demotivate the Railways administrators,” he said.

Railways has thrown up some prominent players and officials who have served Indian cricket. If the talent pool dries up in the future in Railways, it could have its repercussions on Indian cricket as a whole. Railways is also considered the biggest supply line for Indian women’s cricket team.