CHENNAI: There was time when most schoolboys in Chennai wanted to play in the first division league of the TNCA. Only a handful got opportunities, as most outfits were run by club secretaries with family members as players, or by corporates, who usually preferred established names. But some clubs used to give opportunities to prominent school cricketers.
Arjan Kripal Singh, match referee for all TNPL matches in Chennai, was an outstanding school cricketer in the 80s, who went on to play for junior India and Tamil Nadu. He was a third generation cricketer after father AG Kripal Singh and grandfather AG Ram Singh, who played for Tamil Nadu and the country. “I played lower division league in the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th standards and by the time I was in the 11th at Don Bosco, I got an opportunity to play in the first division for Madras Cricket Club. The quality was so good those days that a schoolboy playing first division was a big thing,’’ said Arjan Kripal, who has a triple century in Ranji Trophy.
But a year back when Hardik Pandya, a prominent IPL star, decided to play for Swaraj CC in the second division of the TNCA league, stocks of all second division players went up. It was no longer looked down upon as many club secretaries and corporates picked up or started sponsoring these teams. “Hardik playing in second division was a game changer. This initiative inspired other teams to strengthen their sides and second division suddenly became competitive and lucrative,’’ opined Arjan. “But the biggest plus is that TNPL teams have roped in several second division players.
In future the gap between first and second division will become narrower, which is a big boon for the state,” added Arjan. Karaikudi Kaalai gave second division players Shahjahan and Rajkumar an opportunity to play against Super Gillies on Friday. Super Gillies have Vasanth Saravanan, who plays in the second division. “Second division players are good and the TNPL is a good opportunity for them to rub shoulders against the best in the state.
Sarvanan is fit because he plays in the TNCA league regularly,” said Hemang Badani, coach of Super Gillies. Sai Kishore shines Left-arm spinner R Sai Kishore’s 5 for 13 and KH Gopinath’s 45 not out helped Chepauk Super Gillies defeat Karaikudi Kaalai by six wickets in Friday’s TNPL match at MAC Stadium. Chasing 111 to win, Chepauk lost early wickets, but Gopinath and R Sathish (26 no) added 43 for the unfinished fifth wicket to seal victory. In a rain-delayed game, Karaikudi lost the plot soon after being sent in, as their top-order failed to click due to poor shot selection.