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9 Things you should know about Utpal Chatterjee

9 things you should know about Bengal spinner Utpal Chatterjee, a Ranji Trophy veteran with 500 plus first class wickets to his name.

Utpal Chatterjee, Bengal’s spin wizard of the 1990’s

1. First Class Debut

Utpal Chatterjee began his career as a left-arm seamer and made his first-class debut for Bengal in 1984-1985, and was nicknamed “David” after the Australian seamer Alan Davidson. He later moved to spin, and became a regular for the squad by 1990. He was a part of the Bengal squad that lifted the Ranji Trophy in Eden Gardens in 1989-1990.

2. Playing for India

Chatterjee, already an established name at the domestic level, made his ODI debut for India in 1995, at age 30.

His was perhaps not in his best form when he got the call from the selectors, bowling a spell of 1-28 in 10 overs against Bangladesh in Sharjah. In his next match against Pakistan, he scalped 2 wickets for 35 runs in 8 overs. But after that when he went wicketless in his third match against New Zealand, he was never considered again by the selectors – though he continued to perform exceedingly well in the domestic circuit.

3. Peak form in 1999-2000

The slow left-arm spinner was in the form of his life when he took 52 wickets in 8 matches, in the 1999-2000 Ranji Trophy, setting a new Bengal record, and getting closer to the 300-wicket mark in the tournament. He grabbed 5 wickets in an innings 6 times and got 10 wickets in a match twice.

4. Cold war with CAB

Utpal was known to stay away from the prize ceremonies and official functions organised by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).

5. Bengal Cricketer of the year 2000

It was perhaps due to his this attitude towards the CAB, that they had apprehensions awarding him this prestigious title. But they found it impossible to suggest a second name to the selectors, owing to the lackluster performance of others in the Bengal squad. Chatterjee, who was also the captain of the side, had a wonderful season with great stats to back him up. In the end, they had to award him with the Bengal Cricketer of the Year Title.

6. Retiring on a high

In 2004, after having a decent season for Bengal and East Zone in the Duleep Trophy, the veteran spinner announced his retirement from first-class cricket at 40, after a career span of 20 years.

In an interview to the Telegraph, he said, “I don’t want others to tell me that it’s time that I quit.” He chose to retire at a time when had 499 first class wickets to his name. He confessed that he didn’t want to go through all the hardship for the sake of one wicket.

7. Touching the magical 500 wicket mark

However in the subsequent Ranji season, he made a comeback for the Bengal’s last match of the league phase, and picked up his 500th wicket. He ended up with a 5-wicket haul in that match, and retired with 504 wickets.

8. Becoming Bengal’s Head Coach

After announcing his retirement in 2004, Chatterjee had expressed his desire to be attached to the game in some way, and do a bit of coaching if the officials so desired. He was granted that wish in 2008, when he was appointed as the head coach for Bengal, taking over from Bharat Arun.

The orthodox spinner faced a challenge as Bengal had been relegated to the Ranji Trophy Plate League in the season prior to his appointment. In 2009, he was replaced by Roger Binny who like his previous predecessors, also lasted for a year.

9. Spin Academy

In 2012, Utpal opened a spin academy, hoping to unearth the future stars of Indian cricket. The launch was attended by Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Deep Dasgupta, Ranadeb Bose, CAB officials and other cricketers of the Bengal cricket circuit.

At the launch, Utpal spoke on why there is a dearth of youngsters willing to take up spin. He said there aren’t many spinners that the kids can look up to as their idols. Most youngsters take up batting, as idols like Sachin are present in the country’s collective imagination.

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