Sharath: ‘You could never afford to fail’

“During my time, the Indian team had legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman. So if you wanted to have a chance of breaking into the Indian team, you had to be mentally tough and score runs at every opportunity,” writes S. Sharath, the former TN batsman and now the state selection committee’s chairman.

"Breaking into the state team itself was a challenge," says Sharath.   -  V. Ganesan

I got into the Tamil Nadu Ranji side following a good performance for India Under-19 and in the TNCA League. It was great to be part of a star-studded TN team that had players like K. Srikkanth, W.V. Raman and V.B. Chandrasekhar. Back then, the Ranji Trophy and the Duleep Trophy used to be the most important tournaments for a domestic cricketer. A good performance in Ranji could take you into Duleep and then the Irani Trophy (now Irani Cup). You did not get a lot of matches like we have now, so you had to make use of every opportunity and could never afford to fail.

READ: A big ticket event — that's the consensus

During my time, the Indian team had legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman. So if you wanted to have a chance of breaking into the Indian team, you had to be mentally tough and score runs at every opportunity.

We had to keep scoring runs and improve ourselves match after match, just to be in the selectors’ radar. You could never relax when playing for teams like TN, Delhi or Mumbai because the competition for a place in these sides was high. Breaking into the state team itself was a challenge.

My most memorable knock in the Ranji Trophy was in the quarterfinals in Tirunelveli in 1995-96, where we beat Bombay. It was a rank turner and I scored 86 and 90 in that match, after the team had lost early wickets in both the innings. Unfortunately, the selectors could not travel to the venue. If I had scored those extra 14 or 10 runs, or had the selectors been at the venue, maybe I could have pushed for a spot in the Indian team.

Those extra runs that I didn’t score — in the first and second innings — were a costly miss in my career.

Ranji performance — Matches: 108; Runs: 6907; Highest score: 224; Average: 52.32.

As told to S. Dipak Ragav

More stalwarts talking about their Ranji Trophy careers:-