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The Meghalaya Cricket Association (MCA) has come a long way to represent the state in major national cricket tournaments like the Ranji Trophy, Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
The team recently departed for the twelfth edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali 2020-21 trophy, which kicked off on January 11.
Having created a niche space for themselves in the northeast, Meghalaya is all set to face some of the best teams in the country.
TNT- The Northeast Today recently had a tête-à-tête with the coach of the Meghalaya cricket team, Gautam Shome, who is confident and optimistic about the team doing well in the tournament.
Shome also revealed several things concerning the team since it became an affiliate member in 2008 and a full voting member in 2018 of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) - the apex governing body for cricket in India.
TNT: Meghalaya cricket has come a long way since 2008. Earlier our players represented Assam, but now we have our state team. How has the team transformed over the years?
Shome: The team has come a long way and has improved a lot over the years. We have defeated many teams in the northeastern region, apart from the so-called elite teams.I hope the team gets more opportunities to play with bigger states in the future because that is how our players will improve further. There is a lot of exposure that the team needs to be on par with any good Ranji Trophy playing team.
TNT: How have you managed the team ever since you took over as coach in 2018?
Shome: Most players in our squad are young, with about a year’s worth of experience. When I took over the team, I saw that they had a long way to go in terms of experience, exposure, fitness, mental game plan and strategy.I started working on those things with individuals and the team as a whole. The aim was to build cooperation within the team.As the cricketing season progressed, we worked on our drawbacks, and with the passing of each tournament, we kept on improving.The first tournament for me when I came in was the Vijay Hazare Trophy, where we finished at the bottom half of the table.The second tournament was Syed Mushaq Ali, where we saw a massive improvement. Apart from Assam and Mizoram, we beat Mumbai, which had national team players on the side such as Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur and Dhawal Kulkarni.Following that, in the Ranji Trophy, we came fourth, below Pondicherry, Uttarakhand, and Bihar. The most satisfying thing for me was apart from the three guest players, Puneet Bisht, Ravi Teja, and Sanjay Yadav, the local boys performed well. That was a significant sign for Meghalaya’s cricket.
TNT: The year 2018 was an important one for Meghalaya cricket when MCA became a full voting member of BCCI. Being fully recognised by the apex cricketing body of the nation, how has it been important for the team?Shome: I believe the role of the BCCI and the government is very important. Starting from providing the necessary infrastructure for the development of cricket in the state to providing funding, for the MCA the opportunities have never been better now that we are a part of the BCCI. The only thing is that we have to spread the net to attract more players of the state into the game.We are currently placed in the plate group. We hope that with the growth and improvement of local participation, we can very soon be a part of the Elite group to compete with some of the best teams of the nation.
TNT: How supportive is the Meghalaya government for improving the cricket of Meghalaya?
Shome: For the MCA, the BCCI is giving all the support. All the finance comes from the BCCI. There is not much financial help from the state government.We require help to improve infrastructure and exposure. Of course, the money given by BCCI must be spent wisely to enforce long-term planning into the system, but we require much more help in any form from any authority to induct and launch players from Meghalaya into the national platform.
TNT: What message would you like to put forward to develop the game in the state?
Shome: It is a duty of the MCA and the government to create an opportunity for the players. We need investment from the government to uplift the game, which is still in a nascent stage. A Cricket Academy is needed in the region for the game to flourish. Schools and colleges can also make the game an integral part of the sports curriculum.
(Edited by Shankar Turha & Anirban Paul)