Ranji Trophy: In Nagaland, a cricket dream comes true for father and son

Off-spinner Tahmeed Rahman, the first cricketer from the North-East state to take a hat-trick in the Ranji Trophy, makes his cricket official father proud.

Tahmeed Rahman: "[The] hat-trick happened by God's grace." Photo: Special Arrangement

The first time I met Tahmeed Rahman was when he and his father came by car to pick me up from the Hotel Acacia in Dimapur. We spoke during the drive to the Sovima cricket ground for the Nagaland team’s practice session ahead of the domestic season — the first for the North-East State.

Today, I spoke to them again, just days after Tahmeed proved that it was his talent and not his blood — his father is a joint secretary in the Nagaland Cricket Association — that made him a part of the side. He took a hat-trick against Manipur at home in their Plate Group clash, returning with a five-for.

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The 20-year-old off-spinner, who became the first player to claim a hat-trick in the Ranji Trophy for his State team, has come a long way from that August morning conversation. At that time, all that mattered to him was a chance to “bowl like Graeme Swann,” even as his father spoke about the sacrifices made to bring the game to the region.

“Being an official of the association, if I had made him feel easy, he would never become a cricketer. Till today, I treat him at par with his team-mates. Even he is shy of such advertisements of being an official’s son,” said the elder Rahman, a strict disciplinarian. But as soon as the media began digging for more on Tahmeed after his hat-trick, it was the father who spoke and not the official. He wrote down Tahmeed’s achievements on a piece of paper and sent out images of that instead of typing out a formal email.

Tahmeed Rahman's achievements, written on a piece of paper, by his father. (1/2)

 

Tahmeed Rahman's achievements, written on a piece of paper, by his father. (2/2)

Far from cricket

Born in Nagaland, Tahmeed was far separated from the world of cricket. The nearest domestic cricket match would take place in Guwahati — six hours by train, a little longer by road. His basic cricket manual was the inter-district matches. “My father used to take me to those matches. And that’s how I learnt. Coming from a cricket family, my mother would pray even for the local matches I would participate in,” he said.

Tahmeed started rolling his arm over at the age of 12 at a local football ground, the DDSC, that offered cricket space whenever needed. “During the summer and winter breaks in his school, I used to send Tahmeed to Delhi to the Dinesh Verma Cricket Foundation for coaching. My mother, wife and sister would not talk to me for days. I used to bear the expense of another friend of his to ensure he wasn’t alone,” said Tahmeed’s father.

Thankfully, finance was not a big problem, due to the 60-year-old family footwear business in Dimapur.

Ranji lessons

Tahmeed’s life has now taken a turn. Regular training, matches, travel, comfortable hotels — it’s a good start for a youngster. On top of that, having an off-spinner coach in Kanwaljit Singh has made it even better for the lad.

“First-class cricket demands accuracy. More competition; it is a different game. I have learnt these with time. Our coach helped me a great deal. He would tell me how to set up a batsman, and how to mix the deliveries; him being a spinner helped in the knowledge exchange,” said Tahmeed.

The off-spinner says the “hat-trick happened by God’s grace. Before that over, Hoki da (Hokaito Zhimomi) was fielding at mid-off. He came to me and said that the coach wanted me to keep things tight. The first and the third delivery were normal offspinners, the second was an arm ball.”

While travelling to Dehradun for Nagaland’s next fixture against Uttarakhand, Tahmeed spoke about his father’s role in shaping him. “This (the hat-trick) is for him. He has always been there as a huge support. Whenever I needed someone to talk to me, to motivate me, he was there. He is more like a friend to me,” he said.

Among the six teams from India’s North-East that are playing in the Indian domestic season for the first time, Nagaland fared the best in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in the 2018-19 season, offering hope to Tahmeed’s career. Failure is now not an option for him – doing so might disappoint Rahman the father as well as Rahman the official.