Mizoram:From a Bicycle kick to a cover drive,the ascendency of Cricket


Known to be a football crazy state, Mizoram has found a new craze in cricket that has gone through a revolutionary change with the advent of T20 form. As the cricket bandwagon rolls on in the hills, Mizos take stance to face the cricketing world. Ratnadeep Choudhury unveils this new craze.

It is two in the afternoon and Joshua, a nine-year Mizo boy, is busy in his shadow practice in the nets of the Cricket Association of Mizoram on the outskirts of state capital Aizwal. Few years back Joshua had very little idea about cricket – the game that has turned into a religion in this country. He could hardly tell the difference between a Test match and an ODI or a reverse sweep and a cover drive. Now, as the country is swept by the IPL-ICL craze, the soccer crazy Mizoram is not left behind. For Joshua – football was his love, cricket is now certainly his obsession as the boy hopes to become a professional cricketer and represent the nation.

"My favorite cricketer is Sachin and my favorite IPL team is the Mumbai Indians. Now I want to become a cricketer though earlier I wanted to be a footballer as I have seen my brother excel in soccer," Joshua says. He now plays for Durklnag Cricket Club. Joshua has great skills in dribbling the football like any other Mizo lad. For the youths in this distant Northeastern state, playing football is a daily routine much as their breakfast. Hundreds of Mizo boys like Joshua have been growing up watching the elders play football and success of local soccer stars like Malsawmtluanga in the national circuit has also gone on to add to the football trend.

The average Mizo mindset is now fast changing. This ultimate football-crazy northeastern state now swears of producing cricketers, much due to efforts of the Cricket Association of Mizoram (CAM) and the influential Central Young Mizo Association.

The Cricket Association of Mizoram (CAM) is trying hard to get affiliated to the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI). The Cricket Association of Mizoram (CAM) was formed in 1992 with eight first division clubs and 24-second division clubs. It runs several cricket tourneys in spite of lack of funds.

"We have had  sports festival's and in that we had highest number of participants. This shows the support for cricket though we have a lot of problems. There are no cricket grounds as such. We are sharing the grounds with our football teams. The cricket Association is making a ground exclusively for cricket. It's taking time. Problem with finance is immense. There is no inflow of funds so if BCCI does not affiliate, cricket would not properly take off here," says ,Lalrochuanga Pachuau,the working president of Cricket association of Mizoram

The young cricketers are unfazed by the pile of odds. They believe that they are good enough to play professional cricket and right now making a way into the IPL is what they are aiming for. "If the IPL people are ready to give me a contract, I can prove that we also play cricket as good as we play football. It's a career for me personally and also good for Mizoram to have a player participating in the IPL  and come as a tremendous booster for the Northeastern states," says Vawnlal Ruata, a promising cricketer from Aizwal. Ruata was once a member of the National Cricket Academy and played alongside Indian T20 sensation Robin Utthapa. Ruata is now keen to jump onto the IPL bandwagon.

But Mizoram has its own share of problems. Lack of proper cricket fields and funds – the list of hurdles does not end here. Cricket in Mizoram is not like in the other states. The state has a long stretched rainy season. Thus the cricketing season is barely of six months. Since the state does not have a place in the record books of cricket, so Mizo cricketers do not get calls from outside. "We got invitations to play in some tournaments in Assam and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is trying to help us as well. The rest of the country does not even know that cricket is played here," Ruata added.  These young cricketers are now trying to play domestic cricket in the neighbouring states like Tripura and Assam, since both these states play in the Ranji trophy.

The fan following for the superstar cricketers as well the game is growing in Mizoram like never before. The shortest and the latest version of the game – T20 – has been an instant hit among the soccer frenzy Mizos.

"We were always hooked to football, especially the fast and physical European football. We used to watch cricket less because the Test and the ODIs are time consuming but now we watch nothing else then T20 – it is fast and holds you to the seat till last," says Lalwnpuia, a sports enthusiast from Aizwal.  Mizos were first touched by T20 when India lifted the T20 world cup.