Former Madhya Pradesh and Railways batsman Raja Ali was found dead in Bhopal on Sunday night. He was 36.
Raja died of a cardiac arrest, according to the police. He was on his way back home from a Bhopal Divisional Cricket Association (BDCA) event. The cricketer’s body was found alongside his bike on Bhopal’s VIP road.
“His body was found in a sitting position on his bike. We have asked for a post-mortem report but the report is still awaited,” Bhopal DIG Yogesh Chaudhary told The Hindu.
“The doctors say he had a heart condition and preliminary medical investigations, in fact, suggest he died of a massive cardiac attack,” said Chaudhary.
The police were also investigating a possible personal enmity angle, but nothing could be said conclusively before the post-mortem report. Sources close to him said he was physically fit but had been complaining of chest pain for the last few days.
Raja was an integral part of the Railways team that won the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup in 2002 and 2005. An unorthodox left-handed batsman, Raja was known for his mental toughness and ability to play some inspiring knocks.
Former Railways coach Vinod Sharma recalled, “He was a great team man. On the eve of the Ranji final in 2002, Raja had lost his 17-year-old brother. When we requested, he set his grief aside and came to Delhi for the match.” Railways won with Raja making a priceless 66 in the second innings.
On another occasion in 2004-05, in a crucial match against Karnataka at Bangalore, Raja crafted 113 and enabled Railways to make it to the semifinals. The team went on to win the Ranji title with wins against Hyderabad and Punjab in the subsequent matches.
Raja was the fittest man in the Railways dressing room. He recently launched a cricket academy and was playing active club cricket in Bhopal. “I just can’t believe he is no more. Life is so fickle. I will always remember him as a gutsy and big-hearted player. He stood up when it needed to be counted. He was always there,” said long-time associate Murali Kartik.
Raja, who made his debut in 1996-97, played for Madhya Pradesh until 2000. His last first-class appearance came against Uttar Pradesh in 2008 at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi. Raja Ali played 87 first-class matches and aggregated 4,337 runs during his 12-year career.