When Odisha made Ranji Trophy debut in 1949, all players hailed from Paralakhemundi

Banabasi; Udhab Patnaik

Banabasi; Udhab Patnaik


Ranji Trophy Cricket Tournament, which features 38 teams in five different groups, begins this season.

Berhampur: Ranji Trophy Cricket Tournament, which features 38 teams in five different groups, begins this season. Odisha will play its first Ranji Trophy match against Baroda in 'Elite A' on December 13 and the second match against Uttarakhand on December 20.

But very few know that the first family of Odisha cricket belonged to Paralakhemundi, presently in Gajapati district, which had dominated the sports for generations since Odisha made its debut in Ranji Trophy Tournament 73 years ago at Kenan Stadium in Jamshedpur in 1949.

Udhab Patnaik, who was the first captain of Odisha Ranji team, played with his two nephews, Banabasi Patnaik and Sasank Sekhar Patnaik, at Kenan Stadium in 1949. Later Raghunath Patnaik, another nephew, joined the team.

Udhab Patnaik, born in Srikaran Sahi in Paralakhemundi, was an all-rounder and studied at Agriculture College, Coimbatore. He worked as Superintendent of Home Farm of Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati and retired as Veterinary Director after he switched over to government job.

Banabasi Patnaik studied at Patna Engineering College and retired as Chief Engineer, Roads and Building, Odisha.

Sasank Sekhar Patnaik, who did M Sc in Physics from Banaras Hindu University (BHU), died on the day of the marriage of his daughter 'Soma' when he was the Principal of Fakir Mohan College, Balasore.

Raghunath Patnaik, who studied Dairy Development at IDD Bangalore, retired as Deputy Director, Dairy Development and Animal Husbandry, according to family sources.

Banabasi Patnaik went on to become the highest scorer for East Zone against the West Indies at Kenan Stadium, Jamshedpur. He was the Chairman of National Cricket Selection Committee (Under-19) till his death in 1997. His brother, Sasank Sekhar Patnaik, launched the Gajapati Memorial Cricket Tournament in Paralakhemundi in 1975 after the death of Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati in 1974. Sasank was the Principal of SKCG College, Paralakhemundi then.

Banabasi and Sasank were popularly known as 'Cricket Brothers of Paralakhemundi'.

Babudhan alias Pramod Patnaik, son of Balaram Patnaik of the same family who retired as Superintending Engineer of Gridco and is presently residing in Cuttack, played for Odisha Ranji team from 1961 to 1967 as a batsman. "I was the captain of Utkal University Cricket Team during 1963-64 and vice-captain in 1962-63", said Babudhan. He also played in East Zone Schools and Kalahandi Knockout Tournament representing Cuttack, Dhenkanal and Sambalpur on different occasions.

Pabitra Mohan Patnaik, eldest son of Ranji player Raghunath Patnaik, represented OUAT Cricket Team during 1972.

Two sons of Madhab Patnaik, also from the same family, Sudhananda and Purnananda, represented BJB College and played at Junior State level Bizi Trophy (Under-22).

The family owes its gratitude to Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati, who brought cricket to Paralakhemundi. During his years at Newington College, Madras, from 1903 to 1912, he went on to establish Paralakhemundi Cricket Club (PCC) where local talents were given the much-needed training.

The Maharaja prepared a playground inside Royal Palace called 'Daba Garden' and brought an expert from Madras to prepare the pitch. He provided the players with complete cricket kit which was beyond their reach at that time. Players were divided into three groups -- sub-junior (U-12), Junior (U-15) and Senior (16 and above) -- and they had to report daily for nets from 1 pm to 5 pm under the guidance of B V Ramanujam, who was the opener of Madras Ranji Team and who taught at Maharaja's College, Paralakhemundi as well as coached the young wannabes. Scholarships, awards and job incentives were offered to create interest in the game among the students.

Interestingly, when Odisha made its debut in Ranji Trophy Tournament at Kenan Stadium in Jamshedpur in 1949, all the players hailed from Paralakhemundi. They were: Captain Udhab Patnaik, vice-captain K Ch Ratnam, Banabasi Patnaik, Bhanumurty Patnaik, Sasank Sekhar Patnaik, Jaya Krushna Patnaik, P K Patnaik, M Suryanarayana, G V Ranga Rao, N D Bardhan, Sarat Naik, R Ch Das, P Ramannya (wicket-keeper) and P Bhadrayya.

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