With the 2021-22 season of the Ranji Trophy currently being postponed due to the pandemic, after the tournament was canceled last season, it has hit hard, especially those domestic players who only play the long format of the game. Not only are they missing out on income, but their cricket development is also at a standstill. Bihar captain Ashutosh Aman is one of them.
Aman, a left arm spinner by trade, took 68 wickets in the 2018-19 domestic season, surpassing Bishan Singh Bedi’s 44-year record – the former India skipper had 64 scalps during the 1974-75 season – in the process . But two years without first-class cricket have left it a distant memory for the 35-year-old. A lucky few in domestic cricket have IPL contracts, but Aman is not one of them.
“It doesn’t matter if a cricketer plays the IPL or not. Everyone wants to play the Ranji Trophy and perform well, with the ambition to play for the country,” Aman told The Indian Express.
“We’ve been working hard all year, but it’s a shame that the Ranji Trophy has been postponed again. However, we are hopeful that everything will be under control soon. The BCCI has also assured the players that they will do their best to organize the tournament.”
love for cricket
Born in Gaya, Aman’s journey was an eventful one. His parents wanted him to go to college and get a decent job. So when he got a job in the Indian Air Force after school, it was accepted as good news. However, Aman had already fallen for cricket after seeing Sachin Tendulkar on television.
“From childhood I had a penchant for cricket. I saw Sachin Tendulkar on TV which sparked the interest. However, at that time Bihar had very little cricket and as there was no professional cricket played in Gaya, we played a lot of things with tennis balls,” said Aman.
Chronicles of #IAF Adventure and Sports: Sgt Ashutosh Aman, playing for Bihar in Ranji Trophy 2018-19. He took 68 wickets in 08 matches in the tournament, breaking the 44-year-old record of #RanjiTrophy set by the legendary Spinner Bishan Singh Bedi, from max wickets in season 01. pic.twitter.com/vwODbvWimW
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) January 16, 2019
“After completing Class X, I joined the Indian Air Force. Eventually I found out that the Air Force also has its own cricket team. I never played leather ball cricket until I joined the Air Force. But some experience with tennis ball cricket allowed me to make the switch.”
Travel with the pilots
Aman soon began to impress people. “I was selected for the Air Force cricket team and practiced with them in Delhi. Selection for the main team comes through appearances in interdepartmental competitions. I started in 2005-06 and it took three years to get to the next level,” he said.
In 2010-11, he joined the Services team, played some limited overs matches, but failed to graduate to play the Ranji trophy.
Aman returned to Bihar and joined the state’s Ranji team. “When I came to Bihar during my vacation, Gaya District Association approached me to play for them in inter-district matches and I agreed. The matches were played at the Moin-ul-Haque Stadium in Patna and my performance was very good. An offer came from the state association to appear before the Ranji trials, on the condition that Bihar is given BCCI membership. That eventually happened,” he recalls, adding: “At the time, Pragyan Ojha was the captain of the Bihar team and Subroto Banerjee was the coach. They chose me and boosted my confidence. I performed well and became the captain of Bihar myself that season.”
Another record for Ashutosh Aman from Bihar. pic.twitter.com/o9SReIqkiF
— Md Isha Uddin (@mdishauddin) January 29, 2020
The role of the family
“My family wanted me to go to college and get a decent job. Initially, I also focused on academics, but when I got a good job, they all supported me. They encouraged me to play professional cricket,” Aman said.
Now in his mid-thirties, he takes care of his fitness, training sessions and diet, and still has hopes of playing for the country. He is pleased that the infrastructure in Bihar’s cricket “started to improve”.
“Age is just a number. Wriddhiman Saha is playing Tests at the age of 38. So I’m not too worried about my age. I always hope to get a chance in the future, if I play well. I just focus on the process.”
The Covid pandemic has brought that process to a halt and he is not alone in this quagmire. “It’s not just about the monetary aspects. Our progress in cricket has reached a roadblock. Missing two years of first-class cricket on the bounce can be a major setback for any player. He may lose his form and lose the chance to knock on the Indian team’s door. The BCCI compensated the players for last season’s cancellation, which was about 50 percent. But if you play a whole season, at least eight games in the Ranji Trophy, with the match fee increased to Rs 60,000 per day for the players who have more than 40 games to their name, one will earn around Rs 19 lakh. in a season,” senior Bangladeshi batsman Anustup Majumdar told this newspaper.
His teammate Koushik Ghosh, in fact a one size player, lamented the postponement. “Yes, we received 50 per cent match money last season, but this season we haven’t played any red ball cricket at all. The biggest problem is that this has affected our way of thinking. You need a different mindset to play first-class cricket.”
Ghosh urged Cricket Association of Bengal to organize the office league as his job in the Income Tax Department is linked to it.