Odisha is a state which has often not found itself on the national radar, and when it has, it has been for reasons they cannot be proud about. The last time this resource-rich state hit the national headlines was when the chronic Japanese encephalitis struck Malkangiri, a remote district of the state, where over 80 children died. Or when a tribal, Dana Majhi had to carry his dead wife on his shoulders, having been denied a hearse from the hospital authorities.
While it is being identified as one of the biggest grounds for skyline investments, Odisha has often not been able to either live up to its promise, or looked content with its apathy. And today, the state could boast of being hosts to only the third One-Day International (ODI) in the country in 1982 and hosting the Pakistan Women’s side for its Women’s World Cup group matches in 2013, when other cities failed to accommodate them in the eye of security hazards. But, it is only the appalling scenes of a swarm of water bottles shooting down from the stands during the second Twenty20 International (T20I) between India and South Africa, that would stand afresh in the minds of the people. Barabati and Odisha trended on the internet, but for the wrong reasons, and not that their cricket had taken them any far ever.
Not everyday does Odisha’s Ranji team pleasingly surprise you, and now when it has by entering its first quarterfinal since 2001, it has the added responsibility of painting a better picture of the state. Cutting through the abject images of distraught and chaos, Odisha will try to make you believe that the change could be well around the corner, under the leadership of a young man, who has been their most promising batsman for a while – Govinda Poddar. There have only been three international cricketers from Odisha, but Debasis Mohanty’s name is the most household of all, and there is no greater reward than having him as the Head Coach of the side.
Shiv Sunder Das’s time as the batting coach in 2014 has seeded invaluable knowledge and Rashmi Ranjan Parida, the tenth-highest run-getter in Ranji trophy, succeeded him for a year in 2015, to take the learnings to another pedestal. Mohanty, Das and Parida formed the core of that 2001 side and it was only apt that these veterans could pave the path for a resurgence. As if to say that it is a screenplay of destiny, a quarterfinal spot has arrived and couldn’t have at a better time, with a young man at the helm, with a horde of young men revelling around him.
Poddar enjoyed his best first-class season last year, and as a reward, was handed the captaincy this year, which he was reluctant to take up at first. “It is better to be just a batter, than a puppet,” said Poddar.
“A captain should be given the liberty to take decisions, of course, in tune with the coach and the players’ thoughts. But, the captain should not be answerable to each and every individual in the management. I didn’t want to succumb to the external pressures which pull us down, results don’t come immediately,” the Odisha captain said to Cricbuzz.