Ranji Trophy: A new chapter, a glorious start for Milind Kumar

Sikkim’s 27-year-old guest player conjures a remarkable rescue act, slamming an unbeaten double-century against Manipur in Kolkata.

Milind Kumar, standing on the right of Sourav Ganguly (centre), and the rest of the Sikkim squad in Kolkata on Thursday. Photo: Special Arrangement

The decision taken by the Sikkim Cricket Association to induct guest players has begun to provide dividends right from the outset as Milind Kumar struck an invaluable double-century for the team in first-ever Ranji Trophy match on Thursday.

The association had relied on home-grown talents for the Vijay Hazare Trophy but a lacklustre showing prompted it to change course.

On Thursday, Milind conjured a remarkable rescue act after Sikkim was reeling at 15 for 5 in its contest against Manipur at the Jadavpur University Grounds in Kolkata. Milind’s intervention took the team to 299 for 9 in the first innings. He ensured a rapid knock, reaching his double-century in just 248 deliveries.

In for the long haul

He struck 29 boundaries and two sixes, and en route steadied the ship with another professional recruit — Bipul Sharma (45, 84b, 7X4, 1X6). “When I came in, we were three wickets down and suddenly, five wickets were gone. That’s when Bipul walked in and we decided to stick around as long as possible. That was the whole idea,” Milind told Sportstar.

“For me, the idea was to build partnerships and then ensure that we steady things. The lower-order supported me and I could play my shots,” he said.

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Before moving to Sikkim this season, the 27-year-old Milind featured in 29 first-class, 51 List A and 41 T20 matches for Delhi. Having been in the circuit for nearly eight years, Milind has a fair idea about the four-day structure and that helped him.

Milind admitted a double-century was never in his mind when he batted. “I have never thought of it (a double-century). It was very tough to bat initially as the ball was moving. But in the second half, the bowlers got a bit tired and we made the most of it,” Milind stated.

Difficult year

The innings would be a morale-booster for Milind after a difficult year or two. After having spent seven seasons playing for Delhi and having once been named the vice-captain of that side, Milind was dropped last year, after three matches. “I did not have a good season last year and I was dropped. And from thereon, things went in the opposite direction. The selectors thought that I was not being able to deliver and [therefore I] chose to try out other options,” he said. “I did not know what to do. The doors were suddenly shut. It was very tough.”

On the personal front, too, it was a disastrous year — in June, 2018, he lost his mother. “I was shattered and did not know how to go about it. I did not have anything in hand.”

So, last month when the Sikkim officials got in touch with Milind, he grabbed the opportunity. “I was looking for a turnaround. I am glad that the team gave me a chance to bounce back. I am more focussed now and the only objective is to score runs.”

During the difficult days, Milind had the backing of his old captain, Gautam Gambhir. “Gautam bhaiya backed me and it was he who helped me play for Delhi and gave me opportunities. Now, I want to carry this form for Sikkim,” he said.