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Cricketers reflect on their lives and times

'Headingley gave me my identity'

Sanjay Bangar was part of India's famous win in England in 2002. He looks back at that innings and talks about being a senior statesman in the Railways side

Interview by Siddhartha Talya and Abhishek Purohit

December 7, 2012

Comments: 16 | Text size: A | A

Sanjay Bangar celebrates Mark Butcher's wicket, England v India, 3rd Test, Headingley, 4th day, August 25, 2002
Sanjay Bangar: a bowler in batsman's guise Paul McGregor / © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Sanjay Bangar
Teams: India

Bowling came naturally to me but I didn't pay too much attention to it. I always wanted to be a batsman, so it is like maar todh ke batting banaya [worked extremely hard on my batting], that sort of a thing. So I was not natural as a batsman, very natural as a bowler.

The plus-point for a Railwayman is, he gets a lot of opportunities. When you learn on the job, it makes you tougher because you tend to take up responsibilities. You are not only playing as a player. You need to understand various other things - the managerial aspect, look after the team reservations, look after the practice facilities. It makes you multi-faceted. You tend to be a well-rounded personality that way.

The first game I watched, on a neighbour's television, sitting on a staircase, was the 1983 World Cup final, so players like Kapil Dev or Sunil Gavaskar, they were idols.

The birth records show Beed, but I was born in a village some 25-30km from there. Up to the tenth standard, during my childhood, I was in Aurangabad.

I did one year of captaincy, in 1997-98, but was probably not really ready for it. So after that I said I'm not going to lead for some time.

In the last ten seasons or so, Railways have had five championships by title wins: two Ranji, two Irani, and one one-day win. Apart from that we're reaching quarters and semis. We got relegated and then bounced back. Things have always been happening around the Railways team.

I wanted to be the aggressor, not a defensive player. After I came out of the Indian team, I noticed I was not able to do it because of a technical reason. It was brought to my notice when I was playing in the Lancashire League in 2004-05. A local coach told me, "Your grip is like this, if you slightly change it, you could be more free-flowing and play more in front of the wicket than square of the wicket." After that, I have really enjoyed the batting aspect of the game.

I got noticed and was selected for the Maharashtra Under-15s, and got to play one game. The local coaches said that since there is little cricket in Aurangabad, you need to go to Bombay if you need to develop your cricket.

Here at Railways, you are at least attached to an institution. You are learning something and Railways takes care of you till superannuation.

Most academies are there to keep their cash-flow running. I don't think anybody is doing it to produce excellent cricketers. I can't say they [coaches during my time] were better equipped technically, but their intentions were right.

My fondest memories were of vacations on my family's agricultural field.

Ultimately it is a struggle of you against yourself, how you tried and purified yourself and your being into someone driven less by material instincts.

I was picked in the Indian team more for my bowling. Shivlal Yadav was the selector and he picked me for a Board President's XI match against England in 2001-02. I bowled very well in that match, took seven wickets. After being picked for the first Test, I made it clear to Sourav [Ganguly] that I had opened for my team and given a chance I would also like to open for India in the first Test. But I tore my hamstring before the match and Deep Dasgupta opened and got a hundred.

Earlier Railways were never expected to do well, but from 2001 onwards we got a very good bunch of cricketers together and things started working well for us. The expectations are now higher.

I have a farm in Bombay and one in Aurangabad, and that sort of dream is still there, that five years down the line, you'll find me somewhere on a farm.

I always wanted to read a lot, and during the long journeys [while playing for Railways], there is no better option than reading. I read a lot of books on history, and Marathi literature. That gave me another way of looking at things.

My family moved to Bombay for my cricket. There was a camp conducted by Mr Vasant Amladi, organised by one of the local clubs there. From there on, around 1985-86, I got to play season-ball cricket. He came for three weeks, taught the fundamentals - batting techniques, front-foot defence, back-foot defence.

Headingley gave me my name, my identity.

I had a double-hundred partnership against West Indies at the Wankhede. I had a nearly 200-run stand in the second Test I played, with Sachin [Tendulkar]. I was always having those partnerships and contributing to the team's cause, but then I don't know what happened.

 
 
"There would not be a better moment to quit if it all finishes with another trophy in our cabinet"
 

Winning a premier national tournament is tough. It's done over a four-month period and things happen in a four-month period in a team sport. It is an amazing journey, and for someone who has not played international cricket to win a Ranji Trophy is of paramount importance because it forms the highlight of his career.

At the start of my career, there was Ashish Winston Zaidi who really used to test the batsmen. Later, somebody like Salil Ankola, and now Munaf Patel.

When you are under the sun, under a clear sky, with your bare feet on the ground, it will keep you grounded, and that is what life is about. It doesn't matter how many matches you played, what bank balance you have, what people think of you.

Nobody really tried or gave me a suggestion that helped me play with flair. That is a thing I regret.

I came to Mumbai at the age of 15 and I found that boys of my age were far superior to me. For the first two and a half years, I hardly got to play any matches. I was always the scorer or something, even at club level.

It is always good to learn something apart from cricket. It provides long-term security, especially for players who might miss out on reaching a higher level.

Railways cricketers today are probably as well prepared as any other first-class team. We have to train under difficult situations, make slightly more sacrifices, undergo more trouble to get things organised, but it eventually develops into something tough, and we value that.

When it comes to fitness and preparation, it matters how the coach or the team management looks at a senior player. They need to be able to do things at their own pace. You can't expect a 40-year-old to train like a 25-year-old. I've been privileged enough to have that leeway.

The year we got relegated [2005-06], I was the captain. It took a hell of a lot of out of me mentally. Because of that aspect of relegation and promotion, there was an element of urgency to Ranji Trophy cricket. There was a fear. No matter what sphere of life you are in, to get demoted is considered a stigma or a setback. There were a lot of sleepless nights when we were not doing well.

I'm a slightly better off player now than I was when playing for India.

It was a bit harsh for me to be dropped straightaway after the New Zealand tour [2002-03]. We played an Irani match when the New Zealand team was touring [in October 2003], and I think the decision was made well before that that they needed somebody else. I was not given an opportunity either to play for the Board President's XI or India A.

There would not be a better moment to quit if it all finishes with another trophy in our cabinet.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor and Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by ooper_cut on (December 10, 2012, 7:53 GMT)

A jimbond... Bangar was wayyyy better than the 2 club level allrounders SL are nurturing.

Posted by   on (December 10, 2012, 0:59 GMT)

That 57 he scored in aODI was awesome.

Posted by mrugesh.samel on (December 9, 2012, 20:42 GMT)

Vineesh Vedsen: Agree with everything except Hundred on debut.... You sure it did happen???

Posted by mrugesh.samel on (December 9, 2012, 20:33 GMT)

@Giridharan Jagannathan: Brilliant comments man!!! You made my day... Praveen Amre, CV Raman, Uthappa, Dahiya etc were allrounders??? Wow... :P

Posted by   on (December 9, 2012, 16:15 GMT)

Good all rounder that India always was looking for but did not know how to use when shows up.

Posted by balajik1968 on (December 9, 2012, 9:35 GMT)

Unmesh_cric not just poor travelers, India has become a poor cricket team. A lot of things need to change around the Indian cricket team, but I doubt if the selectors have courage to remove the deadwood. Here I am not talking about Tendulkar, I am talking of Dhoni, Gambhir Sehwag.

Posted by aravabalaji on (December 9, 2012, 5:32 GMT)

Atleast Bangar got 12 Tests to play. Look at what Badrnathi got, just 2 Tests. He has been consistent as ever and has been consistently overlooked. In the current scenario, he is the right man to play the sheet anchor role in the Indian team full of flashy stroke makers.

Posted by krik8crazy on (December 8, 2012, 21:22 GMT)

Bangar did exactly what he was told to do and then some. But star starved BCCI dumped him without reason. Akash Chopra suffered a similar fate. I would take a team with 11 Bangar like players anyday over a team filled with so called "super stars" who lack the hunger, discipline and dedication to persevere day in and day out. True fans of the game understand the immense value players such as Bangar bring to the team.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (December 8, 2012, 21:09 GMT)

Yes we all know what he means about the home of cricket giving him identity. Also despite its (false) reputation as a seam bowler's heaven, it hasn't been a happy hunting ground for England in recent years.

Posted by   on (December 8, 2012, 20:51 GMT)

I remember the headlines in Hindu/Times of India during NZ tour in 2003 when rest of the India team collapsed " Bangar chugs on as rest of the team collapses" He scored some 60-70 odd runs that day

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