23 Jun 2024  |   05:20am IST


Goa Ranji team has been relegated to the second division, following a disastrous performance, despite the presence of Sachin Tendulkar’s son Arjun. There is an urgent need to stem the slide. Speaking to former players, AJIT JOHN finds out Goa cricket needs good players and better infrastructure, amongst other things, to regain its place in the top league


The Ranji trophy season 2023-24 has been a disastrous season for the Goa team. It lost five of its seven matches to end with a paltry four points courtesy of two draws against Chandigarh and mighty Karnataka. This meant it was relegated to the Plate group where it would play against teams like Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This was the second time this had happened after they were first relegated in the 2017-18 season.

The poor performance started in the very first match against Tripura. Goa was bowled out for 135 unable to last for even 50 overs. Tripura replied with a mammoth score of 484 and they were able to defeat Goa, despite professional batter, Krishnamurthy Siddharth hitting an unbeaten 151 in the second innings.

The season then went from bad to worse with Krishnamurthy scoring a mere 467 runs in the next 11 innings, making him the second highest scorer in the season. That in effect tells a tale of the season that followed.

Arjun Tendulkar, K B Siddharth and Rohan Kadam were the three professionals selected for the season. Arjun Tendulkar had nine wickets from seven matches. Except for Suyash Prabhudessai, who scored 687, none of the batsmen scored runs when it mattered. All in all, it was a depressing season for the Goa Ranji trophy team.

Members of the Goa Cricket Association (GCA) admitted it was a poor showing by the team. GCA president Vipul Phadke was quite candid while speaking to O Heraldo. “I feel that we need a better coach for the senior side. We need some mental toughness sessions. The most important role is that of the coach. He has to strategise better. Look at the prevailing conditions. When the pitch was a turner, we played fast bowlers. This is amongst a host of big mistakes that were made and led to our relegation.”

Speaking about the presence of professionals in the team, he said Arjun Tendulkar had a tough season and he had shown potential in the previous season but K B Siddharth was a failure. Plans are now afoot to get players who were seniors. He said everything would depend on these moves and if everything turned out fine even a player like Arjun could be dropped. He said the priority was the team and not individuals. 

“We have been relegated after a while. We spent two years rooted in the Elite C group. We are trying to give them a good experience. We sent the team to Uttarakhand. During the IPL final in Gujarat, we were invited. There is a u-19 tournament coming up in August and will conclude in September. We are also planning to get an entry into the Buchi Babu tournament. I hope we are invited.”

When asked who he felt was doing well in the team, he said that the Captain, Darshan Misal was doing well. Snehal Kauthankar was doing well in red ball cricket. In terms, of bowlers he said Heramb Parab, the right arm medium fast bowler, did very well in the recently concluded season.

Speaking about the forthcoming season, he said Goa would be playing teams from the North East and would be playing in the Irani trophy, Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy and he was sure the team would get promoted this season. He said there were also plans to host some mental toughness sessions with good coaches, for which, he was speaking to Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).

Need for strong bench strength and incentives: Ex-players

A strong bench strength and incentives like job opportunities for the players are essential ingredients to add spice to Goan cricket, according to several former cricketers.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former player said all the facilities are being given to the players, but the problem is of bench strength. He said that Goa is a small State and nobody gets a job under sports quota.

He said if one is financially secured, then he can devote more time to his game. He said that some of the boys were not consistent and the Association was giving them several practice matches and they have to do their bit.

Citing the example of Suyesh Prabhudessai, the ex-cricketer said Prabhudessai capitalised on his chances. He said the same should happen with other players. Speaking about professionals, he said they should have done better.

“The GCA should get very good outstation players. There is a shortfall of good fast bowlers and wicket keepers. The professionals have to be experienced. Arjun Tendulkar bowled well in the first season, but not so well in the second. The fast bowlers are not getting help from the wicket, which mostly seemed to help spinners. Tweakers Darshan and Mohit Redkar did well.

Speaking about how one could improve the standard of the game in the State, he said it was important to have camps.

He said, “We should have five to six centres and the main focus should be on U-14 and U-16 tournaments. From there, we should play a lot of matches and have a group of 50-60 players and then divide them into North and South and conduct camps with a lot of focus on fitness and matches.”

He also insisted upon having coaches who should be of Level 1 and 2. “This would make Goa among the best. From U-14 and U-16, they will go to U-19 level, which is the important point. The good ones from here will go on to play Ranji and other tournaments,” another former player said, not willing to be named.                       

When asked about promising players coming through the system, he said fast bowlers like Pawne, Tari and Samarth gave him hope and with regards to batsman there were several but he singled out U-19 players like Manthan Kudkar and Sanath Neoi who he said were good. 

He expressed hope more tournaments would be played. This would mean cricketers would get jobs on the sportsman quota and could play in other states. He cited the example of Shadab Jakati who played well and made it to the IPL.

Another former cricketer and selector, Giresh Parekh said he was keen on giving his inputs to help the team, without attacking anyone. He said the team should have played better combinations and on certain wickets, should have played more spinners. There was no application of minds by the team think tank.

“I used to prefer travelling with the team. But this year, the coaches - Vinod Raghavan and Prashant Shetty - were from Mumbai. Perhaps they were there to look after Arjun. Last year there was a personal coach. This time, the coaches were different. Fitness is very important and our players did not play well.”

Parekh said that he used to talk to the captain till last year.

“Mansoor Ali was a fine coach. A simple man with a positive good strategy. The reading of the wicket is important. Our batsmen were very negative and would not like to bat first. A positive captain always bats first. We have been negative. This time, there were a lot of batting and bowling failures,” he said.

“We have to play an all-rounder. We have to cross 350 plus and also last for at least two days. Then the opposition is under pressure. They have to take the first innings lead and give a target. We have experienced players, who are not performing. It is a problem of temperament and lack of exposure. Opposition team fast bowlers bowl at 135 to 140 km/h speed and our batsmen are unable to cope. We have to play outside. Look at Kerala, they have improved. Our players don’t go out. I suggested we should go outside.”

Another former cricketer who wanted to stay incognito, said the Association was doing its best, but the players should take the initiative and responsibility to play in good leagues in other States.

“That experience will make the batsmen better. It is very competitive outside and it is important that our players play outside Goa. It is also important to use the services of professional players to groom the local players.

Former GCA president, Dayanand Narvekar said it was important to develop infrastructure. He insisted upon the need for more grounds in different villages.

When asked what was needed to be done to promote youngsters and attract new talent, he said when he was GCA president, former India cricketers Raghuram Bhatt and Balwinder Singh Sandhu were roped in, who had helped with their expertise.

Later, players like Swapnil Asnodkar and Shadab Jakati made it to the IPL. Then Saurabh Bandekar played U-19 and was part of the India U-19 team. He said it was important for the players to get the backing of the association.

“Apart from good infrastructure and coaches, having a good inter-school competition supported by the GCA is also crucial for the game to improve in Goa. This way, it will be possible to find and nurture talent.”


Idhar Udhar