March 13, 2009

Deodhar Trophy, 2008-09

Next up, Deodhar duty

Aakash Chopra

Dear readers,

Walking out to defend a modest total against Bengal in the quarter-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, I told my players that we needed to give it all we had, to ensure that we get another opportunity to walk on to the cricket field as a team. A loss in that match would’ve meant the end of the road for Delhi. We had an early start to the season because we had to play a couple of extra pre-season games as a reward for winning the Ranji Trophy last season. So our sojourn together was quite a long one, where we saw more lows than highs, especially when compared to the previous season.

When you know that it’s all going to end, albeit only for a few more months when the drama would begin once again, you want to hold onto it for as long as possible. It might sound a little clichéd and inspired from the movie Chak De, but our last 47 overs on the field (the match was reduced to 47 overs a side) reminded me of that ‘Yeh 70 minute’ speech that Shah Rukh Khan gives his players before the finals.

Of course, the cricket was not going to stop with this game and most of us were going to represent the North Zone and play in the IPL, but it’s never the same. It's the fact that we were not playing for Delhi that would be missed most. Sadly, we faltered and the sand that we were desperate to hold within our fists slipped away right in front of our eyes, and we felt helpless.

Anyhow, life moves on, and we’re in Cuttack for the Deodhar Trophy. I’ve been to Cuttack a few times in my cricketing career but the last time we came to play a Ranji Trophy game was a decade ago. We’re staying in the same hotel in which we stayed back then. It’s called Dwaraka and is right beside to a cinema hall. There are two big open drains in the vicinity as well.

Nothing has changed in the last decade including the state of the rooms. The placement of the television set is so peculiar that it’s nearly impossible to watch it if both of us, my roommate and I, are lying in our respective beds. The bed sheets are invariably dirty and a look at the bed cover might make you feel like throwing up. It was badly stained with oil marks and looked as if it hasn’t seen the laundry for quite some time. Unfortunately the plight doesn’t end here. There was a cockroach found in the food ordered by one of my teammates.

What bothers me more is that Cuttack is not an off-beat venue and has been hosting international matches for quite some time. Of course, the international teams don’t stay in these hotels and I’m not even suggesting that they make us stay in five-star hotels (though why not), but I do believe that there could at least be an effort made to improve the state of the hotels. After all this is the premier domestic tournament.

Do I need to mention that the bus that brought us from the airport in Bhubaneswar, which is about 30 km away (an hour's drive), was not an air-conditioned one? It’s pretty hot in this part of the country and an air-conditioned bus is a necessity rather than a luxury. This is a domestic tournament and so is the IPL but there’s a huge difference in the treatment meted out to the players in these two tournaments. No wonder all the players are eagerly awaiting the IPL.

Cheers

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Anish on (March 16, 2009, 9:13 GMT)

Look at the bright side, Aakash. Atleast you do not have to sleep in the stadium dorms as our national athletes, hockey and football players do.

Posted by Sidhanta Patnaik on (March 15, 2009, 13:40 GMT)

I am from Cuttack/Bhubaneswar. To an extent Akash is right. The standard in these hotels remain to be the same. I keep hearing from Pravanjan Mullick about the plight of hotels in other cities as well. So across the country the scene is pretty much the same. I so agree with someone's suggestion in this blog, advising BCCI to set up an exclusive T&H department for domestic matches. State associations are still ages away from being professional.

Posted by mukesh kunal on (March 14, 2009, 22:23 GMT)

Hello Akash, Well akash i also belong to this part of the country and i very well know the weather condition.But i was pleased to know that film dialogs do inspire u . And inspite of your busy schedule u take time out and watch movies.Coming to cricket well it will be a tough contest between North zone and East zone because with the likes of u and shikhar dhawan and others can give nightmares to the opposition.But frankly speaking north will miss sehwag and gambhir because of national duties.Never the less it looks a strong team in paper.But cricket is an unpredictable game and whoever plays well on that particular days is finally adjudged the winner.East looks a bit weaker because apart from Manoj Tiwary there's no one who can win match for their zone single handedly.Moreover they are weak in the bowling department too with not much options for manoj who will lead east zone in the absence of Shukla.

Posted by Vijay on (March 14, 2009, 19:06 GMT)

Hi Akash,

Your articles since off late have been moving increasingly to the negative side of life and cricket. I think your plight is much more tolerable and manageable than many of the underprevileged people living in our country. May be you should start looking at the positive side of life, may be it is time for you to think it is because of cricket that you are able to travel to all these places (of course stay in these dungeons as you intent to stay). You can't expect the facilities that is provided to international cricketers to all the cricketer's playing the domestic competetion because IC brings money to the board and DC does not. It is the same everywhere. You go to a Corporate, you see the top officers are always paid better. It is just a way of life. I think it would be really good for you if start whinning and start concentrating on how to get back to the Indian team again so that you could enjoy the 5-star facilities. Cheers mate.

Posted by vishwanath on (March 14, 2009, 16:33 GMT)

Hi Aakash, I am a regular reader of your blogs and quite enjoy your simple prose. Great job. One thing that crosses my mind: isn't the disparity between domestic and international cricket what drives cricketers to strive for more, ie work harder, strive further to make it as an international. i am not for a moment suggesting that cricketers deserve to stay in third rate hotels like the one in cuttack. but if they are provided first class facilities, would they not then lose the drive to move further up? maybe not everyone. but just a few who'll say ah ok, this is good enough, why should i stretch myself that extra bit. already i believe that IPL is going to have the exact same effect. when you look at the fact that domestic players are already making huge amounts, would they just have that desire and drive to go the extra yard and have the yearning for international cricket? if 45 days of IPL can earn them 50 lakhs a year, wouldn't a lot of them just say this is good enough.

Posted by A first class cricketer on (March 14, 2009, 12:34 GMT)

Aakash, Keep up the good work, mate and don't let your detracters (Jay D n Bishal) put you off. You're doing a great job about telling people what we guys go through and if someone doesn't want to hear the truth, just let them be. I suggest to the people who aren't interested in knowing the truth that please read something else. This blog, so far, has been very informative and I hope it stays this way. We go through a lot to play this game and I fail to understand that why some people always want the rosy side of things. Perhaps its because of these people and their attitude of 'sab chalta hai' is responsible for what we go through. Carry on the good work, bro.

Posted by Naval Patel on (March 14, 2009, 12:10 GMT)

Akash, please enlighten us - do the team and local Association officials reside in the same hotels which they inflict on you?

Posted by Youvi on (March 14, 2009, 0:08 GMT)

Aaakash, your writing is both informative and entertaining. At times poignant too when I read about the travel/hotel conditions. All through the years I had always hoped that the domestic cricket such as Ranji/Duleep/Deodhar Trophies would would regain the cricket fan interest and stature they once had. Talking about the IPL, how are the team names selected ? I thought Rajasthan Royals was a neat name as also Mumbai Indians, both seemed to suit the region they represent. But what are Super Kings ? Also instead of Kings X1, I would think Punjab Lions made more sense. And Knight Riders, where did that come from ? The old TV show, I presume, but why ? Maybe this has beend discussed elsewhere but I wondered about these.

Posted by Bishal Sinha on (March 13, 2009, 18:21 GMT)

HI Aakash..used to love your column earlier. But dont you think its getting stale. All you seem to do is complain about the hotels/itinerary/ball conditions/food/etc. I would think a simple conversation with Arun Jaitely take care off these nuances. You guys have a tough job, but guess what so does everybody else. The boss always wants you to work more and spend less on you. And if things are so difficult maybe stepping aside isnt that big a deal. You can still make enough money through IPL. Just to clarify things I did buy your book which I loved and believed till Sehwag got fired up that you may have been India best test opener since SMG. But please try to be more positive in your blog. cheers.

Posted by Manish Jha on (March 13, 2009, 17:09 GMT)

hey Aakash..great article mate..sorry 2 hear bout ur conditions..wonder what does BCCI do with all the molaah they earn if they cant provide the players proper hotel rooms and proper transportation....nyway All d best mate..do well n cum back into Indian team as soon as possible..

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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