They are not in touch with each other. Even though they live in the same city, the two gentlemen have hardly met each other. While one of them has garnered attention in Ranchi’s cricket circuit, the other — a school teacher —has remained in his own little world without even letting anyone know about his contribution to Indian cricket.
While there are many things that differentiate the two, there is also something that binds both Chanchal Bhattacharya and Keshav Banerjee. And that is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The two senior coaches from Ranchi are the ones that helped Jharkhand get its first international icon.
While Banerjee was the first to inspire Dhoni to take up cricket during his student days at the Jawahar Vidya Mandir, Bhattacharya honed his skills at the club and state level. Today, as the small town gears up for its Test debut, Banerjee and Bhattacharya feel that the state’s real challenge has just begun.
“One Mahendra Singh Dhoni has helped Jharkhand find a place in the cricket map. It’s time we bring out more youngsters to keep the momentum going,” Banerjee tells Sportstar .
The senior coach, who is fondly referred to as ‘Banerjee Sir’ by his present and former students, will be missing Ranchi’s Test debut, as he is in Vellore with his ailing wife. “It would have been great to catch a Test match at home. After all, this is something we all have been craving for. But then, even Mahi (Dhoni) will be missing it,” Banerjee says.
Bhattacharya, however, will be present at the venue on all the five days. The senior coach believes that without Dhoni’s success, Jharkhand cricket wouldn’t have taken this giant leap. “Now, each and every one wants to emulate Mahi. The parents too want their kids to become a cricketer like him. For a coach, that’s satisfying. But we also must realise that blindly following Mahi won’t make things easy,” the seasoned coach, who still runs his coaching camp in central Ranchi, says.
Parents want their kids to be a Dhoni
In a city that is still in awe of its favourite son Dhoni, it is quite natural that any discussion on cricket would start and end with the ‘Captain Cool’. On normal days, Banerjee, who is still associated with the Jawahar Vidya Mandir, receives around 10-15 odd requests from parents, who want to make their children another Dhoni. They want their children to train under ‘Dhoni’s childhood coach’.
These days, the veteran coach laughs every time such requests come his way. “Initially I took it as a positive. But these days, I have realised that only sending kids to me wouldn’t help. The parents must realise that to make a cricketer, strict discipline is necessary,” Banerjee says, citing instances of Dhoni spending hours on the field just to improve his keeping skills. “At the end of the day, hard work is a must. You can’t achieve success without hard work,” Banerjee insists.
With Dhoni becoming an inspiration for most of the cricketers from the state, quite a few academies have come up, in and around Ranchi. And interestingly, most of the academies use Dhoni’s name to attract youngsters. “When (he) played, there were hardly any coaching centres, so getting state-of-the-art infrastructure was difficult. And now, look at the situation,” Banerjee points out.
Bhattacharya, however, thinks a bit differently. The coach, who has produced quite a few national-level cricketers, admits that even though the academies have come up in Ranchi, other parts of the state still need a lot more. “At a time when seven players from Jharkhand are playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL), it is time we realise that Jharkhand cricket is rising. So, it is important that we get more academies in the state,” Bhattacharya says.
Lack of space
The only major cricket facility in Ranchi is available at the JSCA International Stadium. But to avail the state-of-the-art infrastructure, one needs to be at least a first division cricketer. Even though the private academies offer lucrative deals, the coaches feel that they are not always within the reach of a young cricketer. “A lot of young cricketers are on the verge of making it big. But for most, its not possible to spend heavily on the game. The state board should ensure that the game is spread to different corners,” Bhattacharya says.
The JSCA secretary, Debasish Chakrabarty, who is busy with the India-Australia Test match, however, assures that the association has bigger plans. “The state academy will be bigger and better. We will ensure that the state produces more and more international cricketers,” he assures.
Citing examples of the rise of Ishan Kishan, Ishank Jaggi and Virat Singh, both the coaches — Banerjee and Bhattacharya — say that the youngsters wouldn’t have dreamt big without the support of Dhoni. “Even today, he trains regularly. Even before the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Dhoni had made it a point to spend time with each and every player. That’s a rarity these days,” Bhattacharya points out.
And perhaps that is why both of them are looking forward to Dhoni’s academy in Ranchi. “For a state, which had very little presence in international cricket, one boy has changed it all. It’s time, we take it forward,” Bhattacharya adds.
Two decades ago, when Ranchi was still a part of Bihar, a curious youngster would travel from one part of the city to another on a borrowed motorbike to play his game. On some days, he returned home with a smile, while on other days he was sombre. But that hard work and smart effort gave Ranchi a ray of hope.
And on Thursday, when Virat Kohli walks in for the toss at the JSCA Stadium, the home boy won’t be around. But be sure, a good shot by an Indian batsman, or a fine spell by Ravichandran Ashwin would still set the ground agog. So if the crowd were to chant slogans, Kohli would know: “ Mahi Maar Raha Hai… ”
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