Published: 08th September 2017
Cricketer Pankaj Rao's humble beginnings are not going to stop him from making his mark at the Duleep Trophy
Clinching dreams from around the wicket is Pankaj Rao from Bhilai, Chhattisgrah
On September 1, small town lad, Pankaj Rao was at the gym when he received that much-awaited call from the selectors. Not only was the Duleep Trophy on but he had been selected to play for India Blue, under the captaincy of Suresh Raina. The Vizag-born cricket lover was obviously ecstatic. Though the 27-year-old, who lives in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh was not the only cricketer to receive that call, for him it is that big opportunity that could launch him into the Indian cricket team.
Have faith in yourself and remember, working hard is the only way forward
Pankaj Rao, cricketer
Rao has been making all the right noises for quite some time now — whether it was at last year's Ranji Trophy, where he restricted his opponents by picking up some fast wickets or in the Deodhar Trophy under Harbhajan Singh this March. But he still seems to feel the pressure as someone who comes from a small state. "We have to be on our toes and perform much better," he says, all this to stay in the race of course, as it would be easy to be overshadowed by players from bigger states.
Work profile: Rao currently works as a senior accountant at Comptroller and Auditor General of India
But whenever Rao feels he is falling short, he thinks of ‘Captain Cool’ M S Dhoni, who is from the small town of Ranchi in Jharkhand. "He is always on the mind of cricketers from small towns like me," says Rao, whose wife and brother are from Hyderabad. "There comes a phase in every cricketer's life where we have to prioritise our responsibility towards the state and the country and miss certain family commitments. Hopefully, if I work hard now, we will get happier times later," says Rao.
When Rao was in class V, his athlete father bought him a cricket bat and a tennis ball. While sports was in his genes, when it came to academics, he was an average albeit naughty child. Cricket-related summer camps were a part of his childhood, but instead of taking to the bat, he preferred fast bowling. But it was only when he went to Indore, Madhya Pradesh in 2006 did he get the chance to hone his skills.
All smiles: Pankaj Rao is looking forward to give his best on field
He finally represented Madhya Pradesh in 2015 and since then, has been striving to perform well. Rao practices eight to ten hours a day which includes gym, ground training and swimming, "all this to perform well in the domestic circuit," he says. But as he forges forward, he remains extremely grateful to everyone who has helped him perform well along the way, especially the president, secretary and treasurer of the Chhattisgarh State Cricket Sangh. And whatever said and done, these tournaments are golden opportunities for fringe players to rise and shine. "We need to thank Sourav Ganguly sir who insisted on holding the Duleep Trophy. Guys like me are truly blessed because of series like these," Rao concludes humbly.