India news October 22, 2012

Former Madhya Pradesh batsman Raja Ali dies aged 36

Amol Karhadkar

Double Ranji Trophy champion Raja Ali, a former Madhya Pradesh and Railways batsman, has died of cardiac arrest in Bhopal. He was 36.

Ali started his first-class career with Madhya Pradesh in 1996-97, before moving to Railways in 2000-01. He was the third-highest run-getter in the 2001-02 Ranji Trophy-winning Railways squad. He also scored an important half-century in the 2004-05 Ranji final, which Railways won. He played 87 first-class matches, scoring 4337 runs at an average of 38.38 with nine centuries, and 54 List A games for 1312 runs with one century.

"He was one of our specialist middle-order batsmen," Chandrakant Pandit, the former Test wicketkeeper who played for Madhya Pradesh, said. "A very stout and strong-minded player, he had the ability to hit the ball out of the ground at will. As a result, he was the go-to man for Madhya Pradesh when it came to one-dayers. Later on, he had to move to Railways but he remained a very useful cricketer all along. It's very sad that he is no longer with us. May his soul rest in peace."

Sanjay Bangar, the Railways allrounder, remembered Ali as a person with a big heart who was a key member of the Railways squad. He said the news of Ali's death has come as a big shock. "Even though he announced his retirement recently, we were constantly in touch over the phone," Bangar said. "In fact, I had visited the coaching academy that he had started in Bhopal not very long ago. He was seriously trying to get into coaching and had done the NCA's Level A course as well. It's a big shock that he is not with us anymore."

Murali Kartik, Ali's Railways team-mate, said that he had the amazing quality of fighting out a tough situation. "I remember when I joined Railways ahead of the Plate Group semifinal (in 2007-08), the kind of words he spoke to me egged me on," Kartik said. "When I joined him in the middle, the chips were down and we had to come up with a partnership to be back in the Elite. And we did it in memorable fashion. But to see our partnership end in such a manner - I am 36 just like him - is a big shock for me.

"During our decade-long association as team-mates, I hardly saw him wearing a sad look on his face. In fact, his sense of humour was amazing and he had a terrific sense of timing, both on and off the field. Sometimes people used to be scared of him since he had that streak, but everyone has it. As good a person he was, he was equally good a cricketer. For someone to average 40 in both forms of the game speaks for himself."

The Central Zone team wore black armbands to pay their respect to Ali during the ongoing Duleep Trophy final in Chennai.