This week’s Ranji final at Hyderabad will be played in the shadow of India’s tour of New Zealand. But as Chinmay Brahme finds out, for four Maharashtra players, the game against Karnataka could be their defining moment — the summit of their otherwise plateauing careers
Irfani cafe boy turns the corner
Samad Fallah, 28
Even for the self-confessed, attention-seeker Samad Fallah, the past few days have been a bit too much.
On Thursday, Fallah was the centre of attention as a TV crew followed him for an entire day. Fallah, with 201 first-class scalps in 50 matches, says that after a while the constant glare was a little embarrassing.
The day culminated with Fallah, decked up in a sharp suit —diamond studs glinting viciously in his ears — being interviewed on prime-time, an experience he calls ‘five star’.
Fallah’s 31 wickets have been the driving force for Maharashtra this season. Ever since Fallah, who has Iranian parentage, made his debut for Maharashtra in the 2007-08 season, he has been the lynchpin of their bowling attack. He hasn’t picked less than 25 wickets over seven seasons he’s played, but he says Maharashtra’s run to the final has suddenly seen a lot of people sit up and take notice. As he whips off his sunglasses and makes himself comfortable at the cafe his father owns, a glass of steaming tea in his hand, Fallah says recognition might be at his doorstep.
“It wasn’t as if I was not performing before this season. Midway through this season I had accepted that this time I was not even going to reach 20 wickets. However, since then, fate’s had something completely different in store for me. Now, I am going to play the biggest match of my career. A good performance might just make up for all the recognition at a higher level that has passed me by,” he says.
Much has been written and said about Fallah’s eccentric bowling where he does not mark his run-up, often putting to use his tennis ball cricket skills. Though he has 200 wickets, Fallah says that he has often heard snide comments about how he is not a very pleasing bowler to look at. “My head falls away from my body when I deliver the ball. I don’t bowl at express pace and they say I can’t field but at the end of the day I get wickets. Shouldn’t that be enough? I guess, Maharashtra and my own performance in the quarters and the semis answered a lot of questions,” he says.
Picking up all 10 wickets in an innings during a district match got Fallah a place in the Maharashtra Ranji squad back in 2007. A self-confessed drifter before that, Fallah once ran away from a Maharashtra Under-22 camp, saying he just didn’t feel like sticking around. After that, for two years he handled the cashier’s desk at his father’s restaurant before the fateful day when a few friends came and forced continued…