It had been raining for the last three days in Bengaluru. The wicket was completely wet and the match between Odisha and KSCA in KSCA Invitational Tournament at Just Cricket Academy was called off. Odisha team draped in their red and white practice jersey, gathered on the boundary line to play Sepak Takraw.
A boy, one of the younger members of the side, was seen arranging the chairs to form the net line. Silent among the others, but ready to laugh at every second, he swooped on every ball hit to his direction with avid keenness. After scoring a point for his team, he breaks into a celebratory jig. And when some other teammate scores a point, his joy grows manifold.
For a player just eight matches old in first class cricket over the two seasons, Pratik Das exudes remarkable confidence about his game. He hasn’t had a lot of chances though but he has shown tremendous amount of constraint and resilience in whatever chances he has got. Yes, the major chink in his batting is the inability to convert the starts to big ones. But while coming out to bat, there is a sense of non chalance. He keeps his head still and lets the coordination of hand and eye takes over. A picture perfect of a batsman, he is.
Born in Bhubaneswar in 1994, Pratik like a million others was inspired by Sachin Tendulkar to take up the bat and started playing cricket at a very young age of 10. His father enrolled him in Pragati Sporting which has produced so many cricketers of national and international repute including former India opener, Shiv Sunder Das. His father had put in even more efforts to make sure his son didn’t have to face problems to pursue his dreams. He also made sure that his son’s studies also don’t get hampered.
“I had the interest from my childhood and was always ready to play cricket anytime. My Papa and Mama encouraged me to play. They were very supportive towards me playing cricket and that helped me a lot. But Pragati Sporting was too far from my home, so I shifted to Bhubaneswar Cricket Club some years after my initial years at Pragati Sporting.”
That interest took him places and he rose through the ranks of Odisha’s age group cricket. Subsequently, making his entry into the state Under 14 level and debuting in the Under 15 Polly Umrigar Trophy against Sikkim in 2006. But numbers didn’t come in his way but his resilience and solidity soared over the modest numbers and he graduated through the age group levels.
Life is never hunky dory for anyone who is in pursuit of excellence and same was the case for Pratik. Problems also didn’t evade Pratik. He lost his mother when he was 16 in a road accident. It was a mental blow at a time when he was getting in to the groove of state cricket. He was completely shattered and wanted to quit the game. Had it not been the persuasion of his Uncle and Aunty, he would never have been playing for Odisha. He came back onto the fieldand with more zeal and determination.
The continuous failure of the batsmen in the Ranji Trophy and his superb display of batting in Under 23 Col. C. K Naydu Trophy meant he would quickly be awarded a debut against Rajasthan at Bolangir in 2014. There, Pankaj Singh had a lot of fun taking wickets like picking apples in a garden, Pratik showed remarkable confidence in tackling him. His patient 45 runs in the second innings was testimony of a boy who wants to make the opportunity count and turn into a man.
“It was a memorable debut for me. Wicket was not easy to bat on. Though, I could make a big one, but it was satisfying. I had a partnership with Gudu Bhai (Anurag Sarangi), those moments were really memorable.” says Pratik.
Things didn’t work out for him in the next game as he had to sit out on the bench because of a shoulder injury and he has been in and out of the team since then. Inconsistency has been the major factor for him to be kept out. His statistics don’t paint a pretty picture but that is something that he would like to change in the coming season.
This is the time for him to get back his cent percent focus on his game trying to improve it and cement his place in the top order of Odisha’s batting line up. This will not be hard.
The maturity and love for the game Pratik possesses, his tale might turn out to be a successful one for many to be inspired of.
[Contributed by: Bastab Parida]