Sunday, May 24, 2020

My Cricketing Insights - Salil Datar (Have Confidence and Stay Put)

Salil Datar and I met thanks to our IDBI connection. Though he had left the organisation when I joined in 1994, he would come to meet my colleagues, Parag and Jaideep, when he was in the neighbourhood. Salil had played for Bombay (now Mumbai) and West Zone Under 19 schools which was a pretty good platform for taking off into higher levels. He then represented Bombay University (1984-85) which did so well under Sanjay Manjrekar.
Salil Datar (left) with former Indian cricket captain Ajit Wadekar (2017)
Salil was a solid middle-order batsman in his day. He has played competitive cricket alongside Sanjay Manjrekar, Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsakar at club level - Dadar Union (1984-90), Sachin Tendulkar while leading the BCA Colts team (1988). He also played alongside past legends like Ajit Wadekar, Madhav Apte in an exhibition fixture ( Dadar Union v/s Shivaji Park Gymkhana- 2017). He represented Mumbai in Ranji ( 1988-89) and the IDBI Cricket Team (1988-1990).
Salil Datar (third from left, standing) and the victorious West Zone team that won the Under 19 Cooch Behar All India Trophy with Sunil Gavaskar (1983)

Salil, gave up his cricketing ambitions and took up the corporate route, doing extremely well in his chosen field. These days he writes as well on various topics that catch his attention. Salil is a fitness enthusiast and has been participating in Mumbai Half Marathons since 2010.
IES Cricket team  Winners Giles Shield (1980), skipper Sanjay Manjrekar with the bat on the left, Salil with the bat on the right

Here are some of Salil's insights into the game.
Salil's Insights

Have confidence and stay put - It's the one good break that matters !!

Having played Inter-varsity, U-22, U- 19 cricket and been selected to the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team, I have played cricket at a fairly competitive level. Looking back at my playing days, if I have to pick one thing that separates the men from the boys - then it will be the mental frame of mind or the belief that you have it in you to make a difference.

Once you play at the national level, you obviously have the skill as well as the ability. What you need to focus on is building the mental frame of mind, confidence and belief in yourself. During my Varsity days I have seen at very close quarters 2 players- Maninder Singh (circa 1984/85) and W V Raman (circa 1985/86). Maninder Singh had begun his Test career with a debut at a young age of 17 yrs, playing against Pakistan at Karachi, way back in December 1982. W V Raman made his Ranji debut for Tamil Nadu in 1982 and had established himself in the state side. While Maninder was already an active member of the Indian team but was dropped subsequently as he lost form, W V Raman was an established first-class player, he was struggling with his form.

Here is how both decided to go back to the basics and fight their way to regain confidence and a positive frame of mind.

Take 1 - The Maninder Singh Story
In 1984/85, I was representing the West Zone in the Vizzy Trophy with Sanjay Manjrekar in the lead. We made it to the finals to be played at Chepauk against North Zone with Maninder Singh leading them. At Chepauk, the wicket turned out to be a rank turner.  Maninder, keen to make a comeback, latched onto the god-sent opportunity to use his left arm spin variations with guile. He tormented the west zone batsmen including Sanjay Manjrekar (he was yet to make his Test debut then) bowling to a 7-2 field, keeping only a square leg and a deep mid on, on the leg and rest on the off-side crowding around the batsman. North Zone managed to take the first innings leads of 29 runs with Maninder nearly taking all except one out of the 10 wickets in our first innings. The only wicket that he failed to take was that of our left-arm spinner who decided it was prudent to get runout instead of giving Maninder ( a test discard then) the honour of taking all 10 wickets, a record of sorts !!! However, the silver lining for us was that Sanjay Manjrekar marshalled us well. We came back from behind and lifted the Vizzy Trophy by getting North Zone bundled out for a paltry 137 runs and then knocking those runs off with 3 wickets to spare with me stemming the rot to hit the winning runs.

Take 2 - The WV Raman Story
In 1985/86, I was representing Bombay University (Bombay was changed to Mumbai in 1995) in the All India Inter- Varsity tournament. The matches were being played at Aligarh University grounds. In the finals we clashed with Madras University (Madras was changed to Chennai in 1996) led by W V Raman. Again another left-hander but who was an all-rounder. Even though I scored a century, Madras University lifted the coveted Rohinton Baria Trophy for supremacy in Inter-Varsity cricket in India on the back of an all-round performance by W V Raman (88 runs and 5/78).

In those times, in spite of Rohinton Baria Trophy and Vizzy Trophy not being classified as first-class matches, they were considered as tournaments of national reckoning. National selectors kept a close eye on outstanding performances by youngsters in these tournaments. In both the above instances, what stood out to me was the fact that in spite of having been discarded from the national team, Maninder and Raman showcased a burning desire to make a comeback. They opted to dig it in and rough it out to grab any opportunity, even if it meant Varsity level matches, to showcase their performance and get into the can-do mental frame of mind.

The net result of their performance was that Maninder got an immediate callback to the national side. He proved to be a match-winning force against England in 1986 and followed it up with some brilliant performances against Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home. 1986/87 was probably the best phase of his career as he picked up two 7-wicket hauls, one against Sri Lanka in Nagpur and then delivered his career-best figure of 7/27 against Pakistan in Bangalore. He then went on to play in the now most remembered Madras tie test against Australia in the 1986-87 series. As for W V Raman- he made a comeback into the Tamil Nadu Ranji team and then went on to debut for India in 1987-88 at his home town Chennai against West Indies. In his debut match, India was bowled to victory by Narendra Hirwani, who took 16 wickets (8/61 and 8/75).

Just as I said in the beginning, once you have made a certain cut, your mental frame of mind counts, have confidence, stay put, go back to the basics if need be - It's that one good break that makes it matter. Cheers !!!
Thanks Salil. That was a very useful sharing into the mental aspect of the game. I am certain that young cricketers, or rather anyone who is aspiring to succeed, realises that one needs to stay, keep working at it, and you will ultimately get there. That is the champion mindset. 

For some more of Salil's cricket anecdotes hosted on his blog - Musings of a 50 something click here:-

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