BENGALURU: Football is the No 1 sport in the Northeast. The likes of Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jackichand Singh are popular figures. In the steady supply of footballers, cricketers from the region cut forlorn figures. Nagaland’s Jonathan Rongsen is an exception in this regard. For some years now, he has been Northeast’s flag-bearer in cricket.
As a child in Nagaland, he spent a lot of time watching cricket. There was not much chance for him to play cricket in his hometown due to inadequate infrastructure. His journey started only after shifting to Bengaluru around 20 years ago.
“When my father came here for PhD, we all had to come down as well. That’s how I joined St. Jospeh’s Boys School and my cricketing journey started,” says Rongsen. He decided to stay back even though his parents left Bengaluru after five years. By then, Rongsen had realised that staying in the city could help him fulfil his dreams of becoming a cricketer.
Life was hard, but his struggle paid off. The right-handed batsman went on to play in the KSCA first division league when he was just 16. He represented Karnataka at various age-group levels and made his senior state team debut in the Vijay Hazare Trophy against Goa in 2010. He has also played for Railways.
The 32-year-old has always been a part of the Karnataka Premier League and one of those in demand at the auctions. For this year’s edition, he was picked up by Bengaluru Blasters for `6 lakh, the third highest bid of the season. He is the second batsmen to score 1,000 runs in KPL, after Mayank Agarwal.
Although these achievements will remain special for him, one of Rongsen’s proudest moment came last season when he captained Nagaland in the domestic circuit. Nagaland won just two matches in Ranji Trophy, five in Vijay Hazare and none in the Mushtaq Ali T20s, but he expects the sport to grow in those places.
“I never thought Ranji Trophy will come to the Northeast. When I went back, my job was to educate them and help them with their techniques since I was playing a higher level of cricket in Karnataka. After we played Ranji, I saw with my own eyes that a lot of people have interest in cricket. In the coming years, cricket may overtake football,”said Rongsen.
The BCCI has been doing its bit for the promotion of cricket in the region. The need of the hour is better infrastructure, more grounds and funds. The cash-rich board also provided coaches, physios and physical trainers in each age-group to all these teams. Rongsen is pleased with the BCCI’s efforts and confident that
the cricket landscape in his home state and adjoining states will change.
“They conducted national academy camps in all age-groups including seniors. They got the best national-level coaches to train the boys. With BCCI showing such kind of interest, in the next three to four years, we will be able to do well,” added Rongsen.