Nagaland's Ranji inclusion helps 'coach' Zhimomi prolong career as player

Hokaito Zhimomi, who acquired a coaching certificate from BCCI due to lack of senior cricket in Nagaland, will now represent his state as a batsman in the upcoming domestic season.

Nagaland cricketer Hokaito Zhimomi at the Sovima cricket ground in Dimapur on Monday.   -  WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA

On an overcast Monday, the rookie Nagaland cricket team assembled at the association office in Sovima. They were to leave for Guwahati for a couple of practice games [against Assam B] in the evening train.

Hokaito Zhimomi — the senior-most in the squad — arrived late. He had to take his mother to the doctor. As soon as he entered the premises, the laid-back mood in the camp turned sanguine. The 31-year-old batsman is more like a mentor to the players.

“We never had senior cricket here. It has always been age-group cricket till U-23. I had no option but to coach kids. I also took a BCCI ‘Level A’ coaching exam last year. I got through. But the board’s sudden announcement made me realise that I could still play. I don’t think I should retire now. I can play for another five years." — Hokaito Zhimomi

 

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Zhimomi had earlier represented Assam in 2012-13. Due to lack of senior cricket in Nagaland, he had decided to make a career out of coaching. But the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s decision to include Nagaland among the new Ranji Trophy teams offered him a second chance. He will finally represent his state, albeit in the Plate Division, after a decade of professional cricket.

“We never had senior cricket here. It has always been age-group cricket till U-23. I had no option but to coach kids. I also took a BCCI ‘Level A’ coaching exam last year. I got through. But the board’s sudden announcement made me realise that I could still play. I don’t think I should retire now. I can play for another five years,” he tells Sportstar while taking in the sight of the under-construction stand in the cricket ground here.

Zhimomi’s coaching degree helps him whisper mindset secrets to his team-mates. “Our youngsters haven’t played at this level. The standard will only go up from here. I have told them what they have to do to prepare. It is all about the mindset. The bat and ball is going to be the same. It won’t change. But the quality of the game will. We have to be tough,” adds the right-hander, who didn’t stick to Assam for regional politics.

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Short stint in Assam

“I was part of the 2014-15 season [though he didn’t get a game] as well. But later, I stopped going for the camps. The lynching incident that happened in Dimapur around that time had its consequences in Assam.” A mob of around 7,000 had lynched a Muslim businessman, later identified as Syed Farid Khan — originally from Assam — for an alleged rape case. After the barbaric act, people in Assam heavily criticised the Nagaland government and burnt effigies. “My mother got worried and asked me not to play for Assam anymore as there were rumours that Naga people in Guwahati would be targeted,” he says.

IPL in 2008

Zhimimo was part of the Sourav Ganguly-led Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League. But Ganguly, he complains, never wanted to play him. “I kept requesting him, ‘Dada, ekta match dao amake’ (brother, give me a game). He would say, ‘let’s see’ but it never happened,” adds Zhimomi, who moved away from IPL from the second season to concentrate on a first-class career. The Inter-District tournaments in Nagaon kept honing his skills till Assam happened. Zhimomi has now taken an official transfer, from Assam to Nagaland, and is hopeful of a better tomorrow.