After toiling for hours under the scorching sun and crawling in cramped spaces to repair pipes and fix drains in the first half of the day, Prashant Rana would find it extremely taxing to slog further on the cricket field in the afternoon. However, this did not diminish his passion for pursuing his dream of making it to the elite league in this cricket-crazy country.
Life has come a long way for this humble plumber, who is all set to represent Odisha in the Ranji Trophy tournament slated to be held in Ahmedabad next week. Rana, a lanky right-arm fast medium bowler, is one of five new faces in the team.
Born and raised in the remote village of Madhapur in Nayagarh district, the 24-year-old cricketer has been passionate about the sport right from the childhood.
His father, a priest in village Shiv Temple, and elder brother, an agricultural labourer, were not in a position to help him realise his dream. Rana, however, started to earn a name in village-level cricket tournaments and played tennis-ball cricket during his school days.
“I was so hooked to cricket that after appearing in the Class X Board examination in the morning, I would go straight to play a tournament in the afternoon. Fellow villagers exerted pressure on my father and brother to send me to either Bhubaneswar or Cuttack for proper training,” said Rana, who is currently undergoing quarantine with other Odisha players in Ahmedabad.
In 2012, the cricketer started working in a private company to check fire safety measures in hotels. Though the monthly earning of ₹14,000 was enough for him to stay and play cricket in Bhubaneswar, the job consumed his entire day. He quit it later. His family members promised to pay him ₹2,000 per month so that he could take up focused training in Cuttack.
“After three months, my father was diagnosed with tuberculosis. My family stopped sending the money. I started working as an assistant with a plumber at ₹210 per day. As I had to work the entire day to earn the wage, I pleaded with the plumber to pay me ₹100 for working half day and allow me to play cricket in the second half,” he narrated.
The arrangement worked. Luckily, he came under the mentorship of Pradeep Chauhan, the cricket coach in Cuttack-based Union Sporting Club, who has been working with budding cricketers without charging any amount for the past four decades.
Rana would cycle 40 km a day to shuttle between his rented accommodation and the cricket ground of Union Sporting Club. His hard work paid off. After playing a series of club-level cricket matches, he was selected for the Nayagarh district team. He went on to captain the district team in Kalahandi Cup. The performance in the tournament is taken into account for selection in the State team. In the meantime, Rana also graduated from an assistant to independent plumber.
“Prashant is a very tough cricketer. He has worked hard on his swing and pace. His height is his advantage. He makes the ball rise sharply after pitching it. The nip and extra-bounce generated by the bowler disconcert batters,” said Mr. Chauhan.
In October 2021, he was called to a State-level selection camp, where his bowling impressed the selectors. The coach said Rana’s ability to bowl fast and generate bounce with old balls during day games gives him a good chance to be selected in playing XI.