Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Anshuman Rath, the former Hong Kong captain, is set to play for Odisha in India's upcoming 2021-22 domestic season. Holder of an Indian passport, Rath has completed the mandatory year-long cooling-off period that makes him eligible to feature as a local player under BCCI's ambit.
The 23-year-old left-hand top-order batter was earlier vying for a spot at Vidarbha. However, he was left out of their set-up altogether for the truncated 2020-21 season, and that is when talks began with Odisha, Rath's state of birth.
"I had served a year's cooling-off period, played club cricket in Nagpur and hoped to be picked for Vidarbha. But when things didn't happen, I had to look for a new opportunity, and that is when Odisha happened," Rath told ESPNcricinfo. "I can speak Oriya, I was born in Bhubaneswar, so in many ways this was a logical next step for me."
One of Rath's burning desires is to make a mark in the Ranji Trophy and be eligible to play in the IPL as a local player. He is currently playing inter-district matches in Bhubaneswar, hoping to impress the state selectors ahead of the season-opening Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in October.
"I have spent over a month with the squad," he says. "The team is talented, but have been flying under the radar for some reason. The talent is abundant, and I hope we can all make a difference this season. For me personally, it's about doing whatever I can to put myself up for selection. The best way to do that is keep scoring runs wherever I play."
Rath is looking forward to working with former India, Mumbai and Vidarbha batter Wasim Jaffer, who was named Odisha head coach last month. "Being an opener myself, it was good to pick his brains at the short camp we had," he said. "Obviously he has just come in, so I haven't had a great deal of time. But from the short camp, the takeaways were plenty.
"It's not hard to see why he's respected so much. He can be a tough coach [and] at the same time be someone who can put his hand around your shoulder when you need it. His record speaks for itself. If I can tap into all that experience, it'll be beneficial to me and the team."
The move to Odisha is another step in what has been a "nomadic career" for Rath. As a teenager, he set sights on a cricket career in England, where he attended boarding school. But immigration rules that don't allow players from an Associate nation to qualify as a professional meant he had to stay back in Hong Kong, where he had moved with his parents as a 14-year-old.
In all, Rath featured in 18 ODIs and 20 T20Is for Hong Kong. He led them to the Asia Cup in the UAE in 2018, where they nearly pulled off an upset over India. Rath made the decision to step away from his Hong Kong career after they lost ODI status later that year, following a last-place finish in the WCL Division 2 in Namibia, where Rath topped the run charts.