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TOUGH LUCK Sujith Somasundar, highly rated by Sachin Tendulkar, got just two chances to impress the Indian cricket team
TOUGH LUCK Sujith Somasundar, highly rated by Sachin Tendulkar, got just two chances to impress the Indian cricket team

Sujith Somasundar, who played a key role in Karnataka's Ranji triumphs in the '90s, has hung up his boots.

Retirements can be a mixed bag. Some are forced but there are those in which the player dons a calm veneer, says his good-byes, and moves on. Former Karnataka captain Sujith Somasundar did precisely that last week in a press conference, which was rich with warm words from his pals Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. Somasundar was part of the core group that helped Karnataka win the Ranji Trophy thrice in the '90s. "Being part of the Ranji Trophy winning teams was a high-point," he recalls. An opener, who briefly played for India in two one-day internationals in 1996, Sujith forged partnerships atop the Karnataka batting-order with J. Arun Kumar and later Barrington Rowland. He scored 803 runs in nine matches during the victorious 1995-96 season and in a career spanning 15 years, scored 5525 runs in 99 first-class matches interspersed with the two one-dayers for India, that yielded a mere 16 runs. Sujith however had it in him to score more runs and he made his debut for India following Sachin Tendulkar's recommendation. "It felt great that the World's greatest batsman saw potential in me. In the first game at Hyderabad against South Africa, unfortunately I got run out and in my second game at Bangalore, I put excess pressure on myself and allowed the Aussies to unsettle me with their sledging. Instead of focussing on the ball, I thought of the consequences and got out (bowled by McGrath)."After that brief stint with the Indian team, he suffered a slump and lost his place in the Karnataka team too before coming back as captain. Meanwhile he also turned out for Kerala and Saurashtra. "I got bogged down because I led Karnataka right from the junior level. I got so caught up with strategies and team issues that I overlooked my role as a batsman. Meanwhile playing for my then employer, the Chennai-based Chemplast Sanmar, I was much more relaxed and it showed in my batting. In retrospect I shouldn't have put so much pressure on myself. But I am happy. How many people have the chance to do what they love for nearly 15 years? I did that, I played alongside legends like Kumble, Dravid, Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, and I was part of the Indian dressing room briefly."At a press conference, Kumble mentioned that Somasundar was perhaps unlucky in not getting enough chances with the Indian team while Dravid spoke about their friendship that went back to their junior days, playing together and travelling long-distance in unreserved compartments. As Somasundar says: "With our heads on each other's shoulder while trying to catch up with sleep." That camaraderie he cherishes. "Dravid and I made our Ranji debuts together and even before that we played together for the State junior squads. We shared rooms, travelled together and helped each other out."The road ahead? "I have done a Mental Game Course Professional under guidance from a US-based psychologist and I am already helping a few golfers in training their mind. I want to write about it. I also have my Level Two Coaching Certificate from the National Cricket Academy. I am working with Wipro Technologies now and co-ordinate the marketing initiatives of the HR Department there. I am glad that Wipro happened as sports persons often link their self-worth so much to their sport that once they retire, they feel a vacuum. I also thank my previous employer Chemplast Sanmar for giving me an opportunity to pursue my cricket."Somasundar started his career with City Cricketers before graduating to the Karnataka and India colours and is ready for a life beyond cricket. A Computer Science engineer and an MBA in marketing, he has what it takes to climb the corporate ladder. It is a shift from white flannels to pinstriped shirts, but for a man who began as a fast bowler in his pre-teen years and then went onto become a valuable batsman, change is part of the process called life.K.C. VIJAYA KUMAR

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