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2 years ago, he was India’s best young bowler; today, he coaches in Singapore

Even as the BCCI prepares to challenge the Pune court’s order backing Abhijit Kale, it would do well to figure out why a player who was...

Written by Chandresh Narayanan | Pune |
November 29, 2003

Even as the BCCI prepares to challenge the Pune court’s order backing Abhijit Kale, it would do well to figure out why a player who was the top wicket-taker at the Under-19 level two seasons ago is, at age 20, teaching Singaporeans how to play the game.

Mulewa Dharmichand won’t say it outright — he still kindles hopes of returning to the game in India — but the off-spinner was elbowed out of the Karnataka Ranji team, and then the national Under-19 team. The place was taken by Udit Patel, son of Brijesh Patel, secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association and director of the National Cricket Academy.

Ask Dharmichand and all you get is: ‘‘I moved on for a more secure future.’’ But the stuttered, cynical laugh suggests that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Dharmichand burst on the scene in season 2000-01 when, playing for Karnataka, he ended up the leading wicket-taker in the Cooch Behar Trophy for Under-19s, taking 43 wickets at an average of 14. He also had a standout series for India Under-19 against the touring England team, claiming 24 wickets in four Tests.

Then followed one dry season — just nine wickets — as his form dipped. But last year, the 2002-03 season, he was at it again. His 42 wickets in the Cooch Behar Trophy made him South Zone’s leading wicket-taker.

However, he was in and out of the Karnataka team, alternating with Patel. Despite his superior figures (Patel took 20 wickets in four matches last season), he couldn’t make the South Zone Under-19 team and, though he was among the probables for the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand last February, he never made the final squad (Patel did).

He doesn’t grudge Udit Patel his success — ‘‘Udit and I are good friends. I have nothing against him’’ — but his ability to forget didn’t help him on the field. The final blow came when he was dropped from the Ranji team after playing just one match. When he asked a senior why, he was told: ‘‘We don’t have confidence in you.’’

That’s when the scouts from the Singapore Cricket Association came calling, offering the chance to play for Singapore, coach youngsters and get a fat salary in return (first reported in The Indian Express).

Dharmichand joined them last December, and was appointed coach of the under-17 side. Today, he also teaches cricket in primary schools and plays in the SCA Division I League.

‘‘I come from a middle-class family. They were insistent that I look for something more stable. I wasn’t in the Ranji team, I wasn’t sure of getting a job. So why stick on? And I didn’t want to get into any controversy,’’ he says.

Today, his focus appears square on Singapore — specifically, getting them to the 2011 World Cup.

But the frustration slips out easy enough. Last fortnight, he watched his former teammates play Rajasthan in Jaipur and thought: ‘‘I can do better.’’

And it hurts most of all when he sees where his fellow NCA trainees have reached: Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan, Ajay Ratra.

‘‘It feels good to know that they have made it,’’ he says obstinately.

Beneath the defiance, though, is a clear longing to return to his roots. ‘‘If there is some state that is willing to play me, then I am more than willing,” Dharmichand says.

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