Shiv Sunder Das: 'Happy with my career and have no regrets'

The former opener, who is currently the coach of Odisha senior team, had played for India in 23 Tests and four ODIs.

Odisha coach and former India opener S. S. Das during a Vijay Hazare Trophy match between Karnataka and Odisha.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Back in 2000, Shiv Sunder Das became only the third cricketer from Odisha to play for India. He had made his name as a doughty opener in domestic cricket, amassing over 2000 first-class runs in the three seasons leading up to his India call-up.

Das began well on the big stage, scoring a century against Zimbabwe in only his third Test and a crucial 84 against Australia in the Chennai Test of 2001. But he never truly reached the heights he had promised, eventually playing only 23 Tests and four ODIs.

Das has no regrets and is grateful to have enjoyed a 20-year first-class career over the course of which he racked up 10,908 runs. These days, he is coach of the Odisha senior team, having taken over in August last year. In the city for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the 40-year-old spoke to reporters on his India memories, his coaching role, and Odisha cricket.

The excerpts:

Coaching Odisha: This is the first time I'm coaching a Ranji Trophy side. It is a learning experience. I got only seven days before the Ranji Trophy (Odisha finished sixth in Group C). Now I have been here for a whole season. The goal is to play a lot of matches and involve youngsters from the U-16 and U-19 teams, where there is good talent.

The state of Odisha cricket: Honestly, we are behind other States in the country. We have good talent but not the structure. Last year, we did not play any domestic tournament. Odisha does not have a league structure. So we mostly play 20 and 40-overs cricket. Most of the guys don’t play days' cricket. It is a tough task for them. But we are trying to change the system; we are hopeful.

Being the third India player from Odisha: It was tough (to break through), but I had played matches in England (Merseyside Division One). And I was lucky to have good support at my club (Pragati Sporting). There were a lot of good Ranji players there when I started. I had also played for India U-19 and India A. Going to the NCA also helped.

Memories of Kolkata 2001: The way V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted the whole of day four was incredible. I was not allowed to come out of the dressing room the whole day. That was a great series to be a part of. I was lucky to share a dressing room [with the likes of Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid and Kumble].

Other memories: Watching Anil Kumble bowl with a fractured jaw in Antigua (fourth Test vs. West Indies, 2002) was memorable. The doctor told him he couldn't bowl at all but Anil, with his attitude, was trying to win the game for us. Hats off to that guy. I remember I was fielding at short leg; Anil bowled a googly to Carl Hooper and I took the catch. But that was a no-ball. Or else we could have won that Test (Hooper went on to score 136 and the game ended in a draw).

Regret playing only 23 Tests? One always wants to play more, but if you look at my career, I got nine fifties, two hundreds and some thirties. I did not convert the fifties into hundreds, which would have made a lot of difference. Anyway, I'm happy with my career. I'm honoured to have been the second player from Odisha to play Tests for India.