Arjun Raja goes down memory lane

Arjun Raja.

Arjun Raja.  

Former Karnataka batsman re-lives his marathon 267 and life after cricket

Talking to Arjun Raja is much akin to delving into the linguistic plurality that Bengaluru is famous for.

The former Karnataka batsman, who has settled here for the last 12 years, speaks in English and adds Kannada metaphors, the odd Tamil line and a rare Malayalam word. His roots go all the way to the erstwhile royal family at Kotakkal in Kerala.

The transition is seamless and elegant, perhaps similar to the way he batted as a left-hander during a first-class career that spanned from 1988 to 1992.

Cricket-lovers in Bengaluru often mull about where Arjun would have reached if he had continued playing instead of quitting the game at 24 and shifting to Dubai and from there to Australia.

“Arjun was a fine left-hand batsman and an equally great human being. He was my captain in the State under-19 team, and he was never over-bearing,” recalled Javagal Srinath.

In a free-wheeling chat, Arjun went back to those good old days — the 267 against Bengal in a Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at the Eden Gardens in 1991, and the partnership he shared with Rahul Dravid. Above all, he cherishes the friendships he forged in cricket.

Asked about the 267, Arjun said: “All I can remember was that I had batted two days and I was very tired. I should have got a triple but (had) no strength.”

Dravid, his partner then, recalled: “We batted a whole day at Eden Gardens and I made about 100-110. Arjun was fluent and dominating. It was very hot.

“So, when I batted the whole day with (VVS) Laxman in 2001 (against Australia), I had a sense of having done it before.”

Arjun is fond of his 83 against Hyderabad on a tough surface at Dharwad: “One of my best knocks was in Dharwad against Arshad Ayub on a pitch that was entirely rough. It was the season in which I scored 842. I was in the Rest of India side for the Irani match but didn’t get into the XI. That was a setback.”

Not good enough

Subsequently Arjun’s career slipped. In the next season, he missed out on the Duleep Trophy, and in the Ranji, he had a lukewarm show despite 50s against Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu. “50 is not enough.

“We didn’t qualify for the knockouts. I didn’t have a chance to show my skills in the knockouts,” he said.

Eventually, while playing a game in Dubai, he got an offer from Emirates and that changed his life.

Never disgruntled

“I was never disgruntled. There are millions who have not played even as much as I have. I am happy where I am,” Arjun said.

But discussion about Arjun does draw in the ‘what-if’ question and Venkatesh Prasad said: “Perhaps he could have gone all the way up. May be he could have focussed a bit more on his fitness. He is a fine gentleman.”

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 5:24:53 PM |

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