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At last, some relief for Dravid!
by Gulu Ezekiel
Apr 09, 2005

The spectacular rise of Mahendra Singh Dhoni may not be all that much of a surprise to those who have been following his exploits over the last couple of years, not only on the domestic circuit but also for the India ‘A’ team.

Having announced himself on the international circuit with that blazing 148 against Pakistan at Vizag the other day, Dhoni’s success with the bat, his glovework is still somewhat scratchy, must come as a huge relief to one man in particular, Rahul Dravid.

No longer will he be expected to keep wickets for 50 overs as well produce the foundation for India’s batting.

For Indian cricket in general however Dhoni’s emergence from humble small-town roots in the steel city of Ranchi, formerly in Bihar, now in Jharkhand, is one of the bigger plus points in recent years. It also points to an emerging trend which can only be termed as healthy and welcome, if also belated.

For decades it was the big metro cities, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad in particular, which produced the cream of India’s cricketers.

A player from the hinterland with aspirations to represent India was often forced to leave his hometown and emigrate to one of the bigger cities.

There have been numerous such examples but three that spring to mind immediately are Madan Lal, Bishan Singh Bedi (both originally from Amritstar) and Manoj Prabhakar (Ghaziabad) all of whom shifted to Delhi before making it to the national side.

In less than a decade the focus has shifted to towns that have never been traditionally associated with cricket.

In the late ‘90s Harbhajan Singh did not feel the need to leave his roots in Jalandhar in order to make it big.

Since then we have had the examples of Mohammed Kaif (Kanpur), Irfan Pathan (Baroda) and Parthiv Patel (Ahmedabad).

Like Dhoni, Harbhajan, Pathan and Kaif have all risen from humble middle-class (or in the case of Dhoni, lower middle-class) upbringings, dispelling the myth that cricket is an elitist sport.

If till less than a decade ago, hockey and football dominated in our villages, today cricket matches can be seen being played on open fields in rural areas where it was virtually unheard of till the 80s.

The spread of cable TV and the massive amount of cricket televised plus the huge amount of money available to modern-day cricketers has changed the face of the game in India.

No longer do middle-class families discourage their children from wasting their time on the cricket field. Now it is seen as a viable career option and a lucrative one at that. Even though only a tiny fraction of our cricketers make the mega-bucks, a place in even a Ranji Trophy state side is today enough to secure a well paying job.

After that, as Dhoni and others have shown, the sky is the limit.

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