Ranji Trophy: The return of Anustup Majumdar

The ability to thrive under pressure came with experience for Bengal’s middle-order stalwart. Anustup reflects on his career and more, in an interview.

Back in the limelight: Anustup Majumdar at the Fortune Hotel in Rajkot. - WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA

It’s the eve of Ranji Trophy final. The lobby of Fortune Park hotel in Rajkot is packed with journalists from Kolkata. Eyes on the elevator, the fans are ready for a selfie attack. Wriddhiman Saha is the target. The door opens and out comes Anustup Majumdar in a track pant and t-shirt. Not knowing him by face, they disappear.

Anustup is Saha’s childhood friend, but his career did not really take off despite possibilities. At 35, he knows he will not be playing for India. He earns his daily bread through domestic cricket and club cricket. The dream is to lift the Ranji Trophy.

The right-hander had started in 2004. And after many years, he is back in the limelight for the two crucial hundreds that took Bengal to its first Ranji final in 13 years. In a chat with Sportstar, he reveals why he couldn’t earn a ticket to top-flight cricket back in the day, the reason behind quitting a secured job and the friendship with Saha.

Q. Your name would often appear in newspapers around 2007-2008. You were seen as the next prospect from Bengal. How does it feel to be back in the limelight again?

A. My career graph did not go up too frequently. It dropped many times. In 2012, I had an IPL selection [for Pune Warriors] and I also played for India A. It was one of the best phases in my cricketing journey. These centuries [in the quarterfinal and semifinal] really count but [at] that time, I used to perform more consistently.

But yours was a stop-start career in the first four years or so. What happened exactly?

I had a job with the Railways. From 2014-15 to 2015-16, I had to play for Railways because I had a job to keep. But I hardly played four matches in two years. [At] that time, I did not have an option; either do my job or play for Bengal. For a secured future, I had opted for the job.

When did you return to Bengal?

I got a No Objection Certificate from Railways in 2015-16 and that season onwards, I was again back in Bengal. At the end of the 2017-18 season, Railways had called me again because I was scoring runs. I had to make a choice; either play for them or leave the job to go for Bengal trials again. It was a difficult time and my age was such that I knew that I wouldn’t be getting a government job. I decided to quit my job.

You missed out on the India bus. Do you regret? Why do you think you couldn’t make it?

I used to regret earlier but I have no such thing now. I just want to play as much as I can. Cricket is my passion now. I have never been a Ranji Trophy champion and it will be one of the best moment in my life if I can lift the trophy. I don’t think I was consistent then. So I did not get a call-up, it is all right. Now, the mental approach has changed a lot.

That happens with age…

Yes. In pressure situations, I can keep my calm and go about my natural game. It took me time to get here but I am here. Earlier, I had a different mindset. I was the same person but I wasn’t as strong psychologically.

You were not picked for the first three games this season. And to come back and score those many runs requires immense mental strength...

I have only wanted to help my colleagues and team-mates. Being a senior player, it is not something to feel bad but to many others, it looks embarrassing that a player who is so senior is getting dropped — ‘what will people say, what will media say?’. I used to feel bad before and I would react but now, I am not in that space.

Anustup Majumdar rescued Bengal after a top-order collapse in both the quarterfinal and the semifinal. - PTI

 

Is domestic cricket good enough to run a family? You are married and you have a son...

My wife is an IT professional. She earns and whatever I earn from cricket is good enough to run the family.

Going back in time, you made your debut in 2004 but you weren’t part of the two finals that Bengal played in 2006 and 2007. What happened that time?

They didn’t pick me. At one point, both Wriddhi and I weren’t there. But Manoj [Tiwary] was there. Then around 2007, the Indian Cricket League happened and that time, many Bengal [cricketers] — Deep Dasgupta, Rohan Gavaskar and a few others — had left. I re-entered and my presence was regularised.

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Rohan was your first captain and he is doing commentary now. Did you meet him?

I met him at the semifinal. He congratulated me. In 2004-05, when I made my debut, I played only one game against Mumbai and that was my only chance. I didn’t perform and I was dropped the next match.

What’s your best memory with Bengal legends?

I remember Laxmi Ratan Shukla scoring a fluent 84 batting with a tail-ender once. He had saved us from relegation. It was one of the best knocks I have ever seen. Laxmi was a superb all-rounder for Bengal.

From Laxmi to Shahbaz Ahmed, you have seen two generations of Bengal cricket almost...

Shahbaz has a fantastic game sense. I keep talking to him, so I understand that he is meant for good things. We just had to keep each other positive while playing Karnataka in the semifinal.

Tell us about Wriddhiman. You two had started your journey together...

Whenever Wriddhi has come, we have had a good time. We have been playing together since kids in the Under-16 district teams. He used to represent Siliguri and I played for Hooghly. We have been together since then. And we have spent a lot of time together. Now the world is watching him as this superman wicketkeeper but I feel they are just watching 40 per cent of him till now. We know what Wriddhi can do. The kind of grounds we had played on, with no grass, heat, the ball keeping low and having odd bounce. He would not concede a bye even in those conditions. Unbelievable ‘keeping.

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What do you do in the off-season?

We will move to club cricket as soon as Ranji gets over.

Recently, Arun Lal had told us that club cricket in Bengal is in a state of inertia. And we also heard that the payments get delayed. How do you manage that?

The pay is not that much and there are delays but it is a prestigious thing for us. I play for Mohun Bagan and there is a lot of pride in that.

Anustup in numbers
  • First-class: 63
  • Runs: 3, 407
  • Average: 38.71
  • HS: 157
  • 100s: 9
  • 50s: 17

Anustup in Ranji 2019-20
  • Matches: 8
  • Runs: 641
  • Average: 58.27
  • HS: 157
  • 100s: 2
  • 50s: 2

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