Will Ranji Trophy Cricket Survive in India?-Raju Kulkarni speaks to sportsnasha

Interview with Raju Kulkarni (Rajiv Ramesh Kulkarni) former Indian Test Cricketer


Rajesh Deo and Shirish Deshpande

Short-forms used : RK=Raju Kulkarni, RD=Rajesh Deo, SD=Shirish Deshpande

RD Raju, first I would like to ask you from where this journey started, your great journey to cricket.
RK My journey started in school. Basically I was in Balmohan which is Sandip Patil’s school and he is senior to me and he was Role Model to us because he was such star in school also. So I started my cricket from Balmohan school but I was not sure whether I am going to be a batsman or spin bowler, or whatever but what turned me into as a pace bowler was this State Bank of India fast bowler scheme, there Vasant Amladi was their Coach, main Coach and Ajit Wadekar was involved in that because he was working with State Bank of India and that is how my journey to fast bowling started.

They had selected 9-10 bowlers promising bowlers from Mumbai and they used to train them for 3 years they trained us and that is how I developed my interest in fast bowling. We had great stars in Mumbai Cricket and to play along with them and I think you have to be fortunate to play along with Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vensarkar, Sandeep Patil, Ashok Mankad.

So the first year I played for Mumbai when the Indian Stars were on West Indies tour, that was in 1982-83, when Ashok Mankad was the Captain and Sunny and Dilip there in West Indies playing for India and that is how I started my journey. I am very fortunate that I played, I made my first class debut in Mumbai, I made my Test debut in Mumbai so I am fortunate that I made debut in Wankhede Stadium. In 84, 85, 86, 87 that was a peak period I mean any player, specially any pace bowler, he reaches the peak for 3-4 years and then he starts coming down.

RD What was your age at that time ?
RK At that time I was 22. That was a basically a peak period for any pace bowler so I had got chances, good chances, and that may be nurtured that then there was a chance of development because every pace bowler comes as a raw pace bowler and he keeps on making mistakes and as he keeps on playing matches he improves.

We had seen that every year with every cricketer. We used to play with the Khanna balls. The ball used to be old in first 10 overs I mean it used to swing Waywardly in the beginning and then it used to be like a piece of stone you know.

That is why we see lot of big score . We played Ranji Trophy final and they scored a big score of 537 . I think Karnataka scored some 700 runs when we chased it

In my 12-14 years of career the only wicket I got which was helpful to pace bowling was at Jamshedpur wicket where South Zone was full-fledged South Zone was playing Ranji Trophy match and in that match I got 9 wickets, 6 and 3 at one stage before lunch  South Zone were 80 for 5 and it was Srikant, Kirmani and Roger Binny  wicket keeper Sadanand Vishwanath

so that was the only the wicket when I played on a little grassy wicket.

On Pakistan producing fast bowlers-

Pakistan was earlier part of India and North Part has gone to them so the weather and the diet is what similar to what we have in Delhi, Chandigarh so that they are basically strong people , and second thing is domestic cricket is played on cement track, sometimes mat on cement track, on a faster track , basically which helps fast bowlers and the most important thing is that one great passes his art of fast bowling to the other

Imran Khan has passed it to Wasim Akram, Wasim Akram has passed it on to Waqar Younis, Waqar Younis has passed it on to Shoaib Akhtar and that is why we see all these good bowlers, and you will see if your hero is bowling fast like Imran or Sarfaraz Nawab  then you want to ball fast if you see Kapil was in the team and he was such a great fast bowler. You could see a good crop of fast bowlers at that time so it is always helpful to have great fast bowler in team.

SD Who decides that today the wicket is going to be grassy for this match , or it is going to be a flat . so who is the person who decides or who is that ?
RK The home team Captain. Naturally he is one who decides. You have three spinner in your team. Spinner were always India’s strength and there were good 3 pace bowlers in the other team then there is not going to a grassy track.
SD Players who performed in Ranji Trophy are not being picked-up at higher level. How do you see the future of Ranji Trophy ? ,  I am seeing that there is no great enthusiasm in young generation also about Ranji Trophy.
RK No I think the main problem in Ranji Trophy is that stars, the test stars are not available for Ranji Trophy and then if you score upto 200 runs, double century against some team, then importance is not given to them.

Due to commecialisation importance from Ranji Trophy is taken away and I feel at least for some matches , I am  saying may be 2 or 3 matches from the league or semi-final, final or quarter-final or full teams have to be there otherwise if I score 100 in the finals but that team is without main core bowler nobody is going to look at me and that is what is happening here.

That people are not recognizing first class performance, There has to be gradation that is what is missing. They have taken out the importance from Ranji Trophy.

In the monsoon i.e. May, June, July and August there is nothing in India. There is no cricket played in India and at that time there was no indoors also, there is no cricket played in India that is why they go to England to be in touch with the game. I used to go and play at Minor County and Club Cricket because I used to be in cricket environment because you can watch, you can practice, you can run.

On Players are not going for county cricket-

But in India  nothing can be done here so that was  the main reason I used to go there. But for a bowler it is very taxing that you have to bowl 78 overs a week that was very taxing, sometimes in a match you bowl 25 overs so in a day that was very taxing and that’s the main reason why cricketers stop going to England.

RD Now there is lot of variety in bowling ,  the slower one is also there?
RK The variety is coming because nobody is bothered about pace bowling. At our times you know I will give an example ….. Milind Rege’s 70th birthday we were called, only 10 people were called at function. So Sunny had come people who played with him .

Somebody asked him …..Sunny tell me one thing that without  helmet you played and scored 10,000 runs. So were you not scared of fast bowling. So he could not answer you know, for 2-3 minutes he kept quite. Then one Doctor friend was there he said you don’t want to tell, he said actually I can’t remember . The only thing I remember is that I was scared of loosing my wicket. I was never scared of hitting.

When Raju injured West Indian Captain…

In a match at Gowhati I  injured West Indian captain. Richi said how can I forget you because I almost lost my eye  because of you . He said it hit his eyelid.

On age fudging in cricket….

In fact I was when I was Chairman of C.I.C. last year when we studied the whole structure and we realized that lot of mistakes had been made over the years so we had to correct them. The important mistake which we understand is that 14 old boy who is over aging 14 can’t get into 16th team because he is physically not that strong as 15-16 years old boy, same with 16 to 19 because there is a 3 years gap

Creating fast bowlers

So now we have created a bowlers school that means those boys were 30-40 boys were asked to come to B.K.C. Academy and there was a selection and we selected 10-11 boys out of that and we are going to keep on adding surprise factors like somebody says somebody is good from Tarapur. You suggest somebody, Dilip says I know somebody, I saw somebody for example Kudal or wherever or Dahanu wherever so we are going call those boys and we have changed the whole structure.

Transaltion (Voice to Text) credit- Sanjay Joshi

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