Syed Mushtaq Ali T20: Pappu Roy, a spinner on the move

Eager to look beyond his days of struggle, Odisha's left-arm spinner Pappu Roy talks about sharing the dressing room with Ajinkya Rahane, the influence of his aunt and uncle and on being recognised in cricket circles.

India C skipper Ajinkya Rahane (left) with Pappu Roy (right) after winning the Deodhar Trophy.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Headlines stemming from his back story of struggle to the cricket pitch are last year's news for Pappu Roy. "Let's talk about now," says the Odisha left-arm spinner after returning figures of two for 21 against a formidable Karnataka team in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. 

He is clear he doesn't want the world seeking emotional release through his story of hardship and dogged cricket journey that spans his family origins in Bihar, his Kolkata years, and move to Odisha.  

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"I am staying in the present and not getting too far ahead of myself. Growing up, I always dreamt of playing competitive cricket, no matter what," Roy, 23, tells Sportstar at the Barabati Stadium. "For me, every opportunity is my last and I want to make it count."

Roy first hit the headlines in 2018 when he bowled against some of the country's top-drawer batsmen in the Deodhar Trophy. He was a part of the India C squad that had India stalwarts Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina.

Roy shared the dressing room with Rahane and found a sounding board. "He (Rahane) is a great player, but, above all, he's a humble human being. He made me feel at home. He would say, 'Pressure mat le, bindaas ball daal (forget about the pressure, bowl with freedom).' "   

Roy acknowledges the importance of those words. "That helped me clear my mind because when you are playing on such a big stage, you obviously get a little nervous, but Rahane bhai was supportive throughout."

Roy's biggest takeaway came from observing how Rahane carried himself on the field and in day-to-day life. "It shows why he is such a successful player. If I am able to inculcate even one per cent of that, I will achieve something significant." 

Back in Odisha fold

In 2011, Roy left Kolkata for Jajpur town in Odisha to further his cricket career. It was here that he made the cut as a district player, which eventually paved the way for his Odisha selection. After being on the fringes of state's senior team for a while, he broke into the Vijay Hazare squad, and dismissed Hanuma Vihari, who had made his Test debut for India by then.  

Pappu Roy bowling to Karnataka in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. PHOTO: Biswaranjan Rout   -  Biswaranjan Rout

 

Roy snapped up 14 wickets at an average of 18.42 and an economy rate of 3.79 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2018-19 and his Ranji debut followed.

He hails Odisha head-coach Rashmi Parida's help in developing his game. "Rashmi (Parida) sir has helped me hone my skills to a great extent. He tells me how to adjust my bowling according to situations and what lines and lengths to bowl and when."

Roy, too, dreams of representing the country one day and is aware of the rigours. He is no stranger to hard work, having done plenty of it growing up in Kolkata. He lost his parents at a very young age and moved in with his uncle and aunt, who ensured he wasn't left fending for himself.  

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"I gave my first match fees to my aunt," he says with a smile. "My aunt did refuse to take the money at first; she asked me to go buy cricketing gear for myself. Maine kaha, aap hi rakho (I insisted, please take it). My uncle and aunt took care of me. I owe a lot to them."

He talks of days when he would be too tired after successive days of practice. "I would stay home. My aunt and my sister would force me out, saying, 'How old are you, again? What do you need to rest for? Go to the ground and play.'" He smiles again.

Kolkata days

Remembering his days in Kolkata, especially the hours spent at the Howrah Union Cricket Academy nets, he says, "My coach Sujit Saha told me me if I wanted to be a great bowler, I had to train like one. So, I used to wake up at 3 in the morning to train at the Academy.

Roy celebrates taking a wicket in the 2018 Deodhar Trophy. PHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR   -  SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

 

"My teammates used to help me in the nets. I felt bad, thinking why should they ruin their sleep for me. I would ask them to leave, but they were always there for me."

Roy lets his guard down a bit and slips in a question. "Aap wohi ho na jo stadium mein match cover rahe thhe? (You are the one who was covering the match in the stadium, right?)" 

He shows signs of becoming comfortable, and responds to a question on being spoken about in cricket circles and beyond. "It feels great when people recognise me on the streets... The media writes about me, I see my pictures in newspapers and it's an amazing feeling. It's good to see others too are interested in my journey."