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Hard Yards Bring Rathour to Doorstep of Coaching Stint with Indian Team

The summer of 1996 and India’s tour of England are remembered for the arrival of two men who would go on to make a name for themselves as legends of Indian cricket — Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. The series also saw the debut of another Indian batsman - Vikram Rathour, who didn’t have quite as decorated a career, but is now all set to become India’s new batting coach.

Devadyuti Das |August 23, 2019, 10:53 PM IST
Hard Yards Bring Rathour to Doorstep of Coaching Stint with Indian Team

The summer of 1996 and India’s tour of England are remembered for the arrival of two men who would go on to make a name for themselves as legends of Indian cricket — Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. The series also saw the debut of another Indian batsman - Vikram Rathour, who didn’t have quite as decorated a career, but is now all set to become India’s new batting coach.

“We have played together,” said Ganguly at a promotional event in Mumbai on Friday. “Our Test debut was in the same series. He's fantastic guy, who has worked hard at the grass root level with Himachal Pradesh. He's has risen from absolute the basics. Ranji Trophy and putting the hard yard with Himachal boys. So hopefully he does well.”

Rathour, who was a domestic giant for Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in first-class cricket, turned out in only six Tests and seven ODIs for India, scoring 131 Test runs at a paltry average of 13.10. His ODI record was slightly better with 193 runs at an average of 27.57 with two half-centuries against England and South Africa respectively.

But he had an imposing record of 11,473 first-class runs from 146 matches at an average of 49.66 with 33 hundreds and a top-score of 254. “I have no regrets. I only wish I had been more successful in my international career. I tried my best but was not very successful. A good beginning is important for a cricketer (at the international level). Unfortunately, that did not happen to me,” Rathour had said back in 2003 when he announced his first-class retirement.

“If you don't get runs the first time after that you are always on trial. To play under that kind of pressure is difficult.” The former India opener captained both Punjab and Himachal Pradesh at the first-class level and led Punjab to the Ranji title in the 1992-93 season.

"Some batsmen like Dravid are technically correct. But if you are not, you have to have the conviction and trust yourself. I think that is where I made a mistake. When I did not get runs, I started doubting myself,” Rathour said at the time.

Bengal’s Sambaran Banerjee was one of the national selectors who picked Rathour for his debut series back in 1996.

“Vikram was a prolific scorer of runs in domestic cricket and his sheer weightage of runs forced us to select him for the England tour. The series is now remembered for the exploits of Ganguly and Dravid while Rathour struggled against the moving ball while facing the likes of Chris Lewis and Dominic Cork,” Banerjee told CricketNext, speaking about Rathour the batsman.

“I think he was predominantly a front foot player which didn’t help while facing quality fast bowling in England and South Africa. Once he was dropped after the South Africa series, he failed to find a way back into the team,” Banerjee recalled.

After his playing career came to an end, Rathour went on coach the Punjab Ranji side till 2012. Left-arm seamer Barinder Sran was one of the young talents he identified and promoted during his tenure as Punjab coach. It was Rathour’s tips as coach which helped Sran make rapid progress into the Indian ODI team by 2016. He also had a brief stint as assistant coach with Kings XI Punjab franchise till 2012.

Rathour then donned the selector’s hat in 2012, replacing Mohinder Amarnath as North Zone selector as Sandip Patil was elevated to the position of chief selector. The appointment was not without controversy because Amarnath was sidelined by then BCCI president N. Srinivasan as he wanted to take captaincy away from MS Dhoni after back-to-back Tests series losses to Australia and England.

It was in this stint as national selector that Rathour developed a close bond with another former India player, Saba Karim, who was the East Zone selector. Karim is currently the BCCI General Manager (Cricket Operations) and it is believed he has been firmly in Rathour’s corner to take up the role of batting coach, first backing him to take up a position as National Cricket Academy (NCA) batting coach and now backing his candidature in the same role with the senior team.

There have been ‘conflict-of-interest’ allegations raised against Rathour since his brother-in-law and former India off-spinner Aashish Kapoor is also a junior national selector. He is also cousin of former BCCI president and current Minister of State (External Affairs) Anurag Thakur and as a result he is also director of cricket with the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, a position he’ll have to give up before becoming Team India’s batting coach.

It has been a long, winding road for Rathour. With two T20 World Cups coming up as well as tough away tours to South Africa and England in the next couple of years, his mettle will be put to a stern test.

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