Sudip Kumar Gharami, rising from Naihati

Bengal batsman Gharami, who made his debut in the Ranji final, built a house with the money earned from the U-23 triumph for his state.

Bengal batsman Sudip Kumar Gharami outside the dressing room at the SCA stadium in Rajkot.   -  WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA

Sudip Kumar Gharami’s parents moved into their newly-constructed house in Naihati — 44 kilometres from Kolkata — on day one of the Ranji Trophy final. They would earlier live in a mud hut protected by bamboos. Incidentally, the youngster, like Sourav Ganguly in 1990, made his Bengal debut in the title-clash; against Saurashtra at the Khandheri Stadium in Rajkot.

The money he earned after winning the U-23 tournament in 2019 helped build the property. His father is a mason and mother, a housewife. And the couple celebrated the house-warming and Gharami’s debut at the same time. “We had a kachha house before, made with bamboos. I gave my parents whatever money I earned from the U23 tournaments,” Gharami tells Sportstar.

The 20-year-old batsman is an inspiration for all youngsters, from the suburbs, who travel to Kolkata on a daily basis for cricket coaching. Some of them eventually move base. In fact, the entire Bengal XI that played the final have their origins outside the city of joy.

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The U-23 category is the new supply line for the senior side. Fast bowlers Akash Deep and Ishan Porel, wicketkeeper-batsman Agniv Pan, slow left-arm bowler Pradipta Pramanik and batsman Kazi Junaid Saifi are some of the fine prospects.

Gharami did not have an easy start. “I was born in Naihati and I wanted to be a cricketer from a young age. We did not have enough money. My father used to work as a raj mistry in a contract system. But he really wanted to make me a cricketer. He would borrow money from people to give me everything that I needed. The kit and the fee for coaching,” says the right-hander.

The blood and sweat at the nets mattered as he ended up being coach Arun Lal's surprise package in the final, ahead of regulars Shreevats Goswami and Abhishek Raman. He could score only 26 but the four boundaries he hit — two against Jaydev Unadkat who finished as top wicket-taker in the season — had ‘class’ written all over.

“I had no idea that I was selected for the final. I was playing a T20 match for FCI that time. I was a little nervous. I became confident after playing the first ball,” adds Gharami, who is trained by coach Debesh Chakrabarty in Naihati.

Though climbing up through the junior cricket ranks, he is not bothered about the pressure or mindset. “I am used to it. We have played under extreme conditions in the U-23 level. I have played games where we had to field for two days,” says Gharami, who idolises Sachin Tendulkar. “Earlier, I used to try and play like him but then, my coach had asked me to make a few adjustments.”

Under the watchful eye

Former Cricket Association of Bengal president Sourav Ganguly, who is now the BCCI chief, had called up Bengal U-23 coach Sourasish Lahiri after watching Gharami bat.

“I had interacted with him [Ganguly] once during the U-23 game against Mumbai at Eden Gardens. I had got out for 66 and he told me, ‘You were batting so well on a wicket where nobody was surviving. Why did you throw away your wicket? You could have scored a 100,”’ Gharami recalls.

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Former Bengal cricketer Lahiri stamps Gharami as a ‘tough cookie’.

“It was part of the plan to bring up players from the U-23 team. Dadi [Ganguly] had told me that. It was a crucial age-group. We had to keep them in good space so that they can perform,” says Lahiri.

“I have been working with him for the past two years. He was quite instrumental in the U-23 championship. He is a very good team man,  a gritty customer. The approach he showed was brilliant. In my book, at this moment, he is the best cricketer around. Gun fielder. He is an all-round prospect,” he adds.

Gharami has been faring well from the U-19 level and Lal constantly kept in touch with Lahiri to track his progress. Now that Bengal finished as runners-up in the Ranji Trophy, it will further add to Gharami’s off-season training.

“I want to work a bit more on my game plan."

He has enough time to come out harder next season.

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