Express press service
CHENNAI: If ‘khadoos’ is what best defines Mumbai, it’s safe to say that the railways were all about courage. In the 90s and 2000s, Railways was an in-demand team thanks to the job guarantees that came with it.
After a near miss in the final against Baroda in the 2000–01 season, the railways clinched their first Ranji Trophy title the following season. They won it again in 2004-05 as Murali Kartik, Sanjay Bangar and JP Yadav remained on the national radar.
Since then, they have not been able to get closer. Between 2010/11 and today, the railways have only gone beyond the group stages twice – reaching the quarter-finals in 2010-11 and the 2013-14 seasons. They rarely looked like themselves.
As the final round of Ranji Trophy group matches begin on Thursday, barring a miracle, the Railways won’t qualify for knockouts this season either.
“It’s a reconstruction phase for us,” said Zakaria Zuffri, their coach.
“We have exciting players coming up and there are experienced ones like Arindham Gosh, Karn Sharma and Avinash Yadav. Then we have Yuvraj Singh, Upendra Yadav and Mohmmad Saif who are all very good players. In fact, we lack good fast bowlers, especially after C Pradeep and Himanshu Sangwan were unable to play due to injuries,” added Zuffri who is a certified Level II coach.
That the Railways have fallen behind the other teams is pretty obvious. Ever since the IPL came into being and domestic player match fees have gone up, there hasn’t been much interest from players to join Railways, one of the biggest scouts when it comes to athletes. Although the women’s Railways team continues to remain strong domestically, aside from captain Karn, none of them have international experience. It tells a story. Wicketkeeper Upendra was recently part of the India A team which toured South Africa in November-December and is a highly regarded prospect.
“The truth is that the players didn’t want to come to the railways and it showed in the performance. These players were looking for a good position, which was not possible in the railways because it has its own way of working. There are 33 disciplines, so unless you are in the semi-finals or finals of a national competition or representing India, some positions are out of bounds. cricket, you won’t get a certain rank. And with more and more companies and PSUs offering good positions, players weren’t keen on joining the railways,” Zuffri said. , who also played for the railways.He took charge of the railways after spending the last few seasons at the BCCI zonal academy in the northeast.
The pandemic is changing. With many companies and UAPs not recruiting cricketers, many are once again showing interest in joining the railways. Upendra and Saif joined the Railways last year and Zuffri believes a new policy is needed in the Railways to attract good players.
“To be honest, we’re not updating where the other teams in the state are. We’re still (stuck) in the past. The IPL gives players a lot of exposure and they’re fascinated by it. are well paid there so railroads are not a priority for them.And you also get a good salary in Ranji Trophy which was not before.They can survive without professional job.Players don’t want to come to the railways because they consider some positions too low for them. We need to update our own policy. The discussion has been going on for a few years, so I hope that happens. If that happens, good players will join again,” Zuffri said.
The immediate objective for the railways is to build a solid base and obtain a core of actors who can serve them for a long time. Ahead of this season with new players in the mix, Railways first held a camp in Vizag in August, followed by another in Guwahati for the seniors and under-25 squad.
Prior to the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, they had a 10-day camp in Delhi, followed by those in Ahmedabad and Chennai.
“We are not lacking in talent. We just have to make sure they all play as a unit. We have a team that has representation from all over India. There is a lot of diversity in the team. So you have to manage everyone to bring them together. The thought process has to be unique and that’s the biggest challenge, I would say. These guys have talent, but everyone has their way of doing it, their way of expressing themselves. In a state team, that won’t be a problem, because the culture is the same. The language is the same and once you know them in the initial phase it becomes easy. But here it is different. And that’s why it takes time,” Zuffri said.