Ranji Trophy, Indian domestic season, 2007-08 October 24, 2007

Sridharan Sharath steps out of retirement

Sharath sees himself as a player-cum-mentor in Assam's young side © Cricinfo Ltd

Sridharan Sharath, the former Tamil Nadu batsman, is all set to come out of retirement and represent Assam in the coming Ranji season. He expects to be named the captain of the side. He had retired at the end of the last season after having represented Tamil Nadu for 15 years.

Sharath, along with two other Tamil Nadu players - former India opener Sadagoppan Ramesh and Somasetty Suresh - and Karnataka left-arm spinner Anand Katti, will join the Assam trials, set to get underway at the NF Railway Stadium tomorrow.

Speaking to Cricinfo, Sharath confirmed the move. The Assam team is likely to be announced in two days' time. "I am likely to captain the team this season," Sharath said. "There was a vacancy open with regular captain J Arunkumar playing for Goa this season."

While moving to Assam may not be a big surprise, what with player transfers becoming common in domestic circles these days, his coming out of retirement that lasted only a few months is. His retirement was accompanied by a sense of disappointment, after being overlooked for countless Board President's XI teams and A sides in over a decade. What made him change his mind now? And what made him choose to play in the Plate League?

Sharath is excited at the opportunity to represent and help a weak side like Assam. Their coach, Sanat Kumar, for the last three years, has been keen to have him on board. "Over the last three-four years the coach has been inviting me," Sharath said. "Around April this year, after my retirement, I gave it a serious thought. I spoke to a few guys and made my decision within months."

More significantly, Assam losing players to the Indian Cricket League (ICL) made the decision easier. "We've had teams like Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad losing several players to the ICL and Assam too has suffered.

If a team like Tamil Nadu loses six-seven players, they can always rebound fast. But it's not the case with Assam, which has only a few prominent players and loses them due to different reasons. Now is when youngsters badly need senior players by their side. Financially also it would be good for me if I kept playing domestic cricket."

The role he plays with Assam will be different from what he did with Tamil Nadu. "I see myself as a player-cum-coach, and that concept seems to have caught on across the world. I have coaching experience in Chennai and in fact, I have plans of taking it up full time after I finally quit the game."

Sharath hopes other veterans would follow his lead. "Senior players should consider giving something back to the game. Players like Yere Goud, Amol Muzumdar and Pankaj Dharmani will have a tremendous impact on them."

Coming back to cricket after over eight months of a lay-off will be a big test of his fitness, especially when he is a week shy of his 35th birthday. "I haven't been doing any hard training over the last few months. Of course, one cannot expect me to run around the field like a 25-year old. My aim is to ensure I contribute usefully, both as a player and a coach, and I hope to derive as much motivation from them [youngsters] as they can from me."

The new role of mentoring a team through tough times sits well with Sharath. He spoke of the number of times he had to rescue his side from crisis situations, staging middle-order recoveries, giving credence to his reputation of a stalwart. In less than a year since his retirement, he takes on another crisis - of a different magnitude, in a different role, miles away from home.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo