Former India pacer Jhulan Goswami, IPL (Indian Premier League) Governing Council member Avishek Dalmiya and former India cricketer Saradindu Mukherjee spoke on the promise cricket holds in Bengal during Sportstar’s East Sports Conclave 2023.
The session was moderated by Sportstar’s assistant editor Shayan Acharya.
Jhulan spoke about the challenges she faced in her early years.
“The journey hasn’t been easy but I had a dream of playing at least one match or even one over for India. Growing up in Chakdah, there wasn’t scope of much cricket. The biggest challenge was convincing my parents because I was travelling to Kolkata everyday and missing out on a lot of school and studies. Playing cricket, while being from a middle-class family, was especially not easy.”
However, Jhulan acknowledges that women’s cricket is in a better state today than before.
“If you compare now with the time I was starting... visibility is much more now. Back then there was no social media. Even during my early days with India, many people did not know that we were playing. Now, a lot more people know about women’s cricket.”
‘Domestic cricket now financially rewarding’
Saradindu spoke about how the sport has become financially more rewarding.
“Financially speaking, domestic cricket has become more rewarding because of the IPL and BCCI. And that is because of a gentleman called Jagmohan Dalmiya, Avishek’s father. Not just for the men’s but he worked for the women’s game as well. Infrastructure has gone to a level that I am surprised to see so many wonderful cricket grounds. There are even indoor stadiums where you can practise throughout the year... even at the U-15 and U-13 levels, which is the supply line for Bengal in the coming years.”
Bengal won the Ranji Trophy only on two occasions - in 1938-39 and 1989-90. Since then, the title has eluded the side, although it has finished runner-up four times (total 12 times).
Saradindu said, “Over the past few years, we have been doing well. Yes, we have gone out in the semis and final, but this time I have a feeling we will go all the way. It is just one bad game [sic].”
Dalmiya chimed in, “It is a matter of time that we pull it off. We have a mixture of youth and experience. There is Manoj Tiwary, who is leading from the front. Laxmi Ratan Shukla is the coach and he can bring in the killer instinct.”
Vision 2020 revamp for women?
While speaking on the Cricket Association of Bengal’s ambitious ‘Vision 2020’ programme, Jhulan praised former India cricketer VVS Laxman, who she said has done phenomenal work on the sidelines.
“It is not always about skill. You also have to handle pressure situations a lot of times. For this reason, players should have good mentors. There should be a similar vision for the women also.”
Dalmiya concurred, saying the CAB should look to revamp the programme in the coming days.
On being asked whether the supply line for the Bengal senior side is still in order, Saradindu said, “The main talent pool comes from the district level. My talent development wing colleagues and I travel across Bengal, find exceptional youngsters and relate the matter to CAB. Someone like Archis Biswas has done really well. So, the supply line is still intact. In the future, players like Sudip Gharami will be absolute assets and can have as big an impact as Tiwary and Anustup Majumdar.”
India recently won the 2023 Women’s U19 T20 World Cup. In the winning team were Hrishita Basu and Titas Sadhu, alongside Richa Ghosh, who has already played for the senior Indian team.
“Officially, I have been a mentor after my retirement, but unofficially, I have been a mentor to the Bengal team for 15 years. And that’s how CAB and I found Richa, a talent from Siliguri. CAB has always been supportive towards women’s cricket and has tried to give them the best facilities. It is important to have a good mentor - it can be your best friend or even your parents. In WPL (Women’s Premier League), the young players will earn money and the spotlight will be on them. I will suggest the players to work hard and cricket will take care of everything. This is what I followed,” Jhulan, who has signed for the Mumbai WPL franchise as the bowling coach and mentor, said.
On being asked about representation from different states in franchise leagues, Saradindu said, “In franchise cricket, you cannot look to have players from the state. The coaches might want specific players, maybe an off-spinner but your state doesn’t provide a player with the same skillset. Obviously, you have to look elsewhere.
The Sportstar East Sports Conclave was held in association with Hero We Care - a Hero Motocorp CSR Initiative, Indian Oil, Shiv-Naresh, Rau’s IAS Study Circle, Pinnacle Infotech, Maithan Alloys Ltd, Merlin Group, SRMB, Techno India Group’s Sister Nivedita University, Meghbela Broadband and Indian Bank.