Robin Bist’s career is the exemplification of the rigours, uncertainty, and jitters, the domestic cricketers of India have to encounter despite performing consistently and creditably. He was hailed as the next big thing of Indian cricket after being the top scorer in the Ranji Trophy 2011-2012 season. He smashed more than 1,000 runs in the season and helped Rajasthan win the Ranji Trophy second time in a row.
His sterling show made him a prime contender for selection in the Indian team. Since then, he has fallen off the radar, despite putting up fine performances consistently, as far the selection process goes. This year, he decided to play for Himachal Pradesh, instead of Rajasthan, in the Ranji Trophy. He hopes that this shift from Rajasthan to Himachal Pradesh would transform his fortunes and would bring him back in the contention for a place in the Indian team.
His 220* for his new team against Hyderabad is the currently the highest individual score in this Ranji season as of now.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. Why did you decide to shift to Himachal Pradesh from Rajasthan this year?
It was not an easy decision to make. Rajasthan cricket has given me everything and has stood by me through thick and thin. I played for Rajasthan (Group cricket and then Ranji Trophy) for 10 years and had a wonderful experience. I am exceedingly privileged that I was a part of the Rajasthan team which won the Ranji Trophy two times on the trot. Most of my Rajasthan team-mates are like a family to me.
But as you all know, Rajasthan cricket is in quagmire from last two years. The BCCI has suspended the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) and the political strife has deeply affected the game in the state. Our future as domestic cricketers has been under a cloud from last two years and it is quite tough to remain focused and perform well in such circumstances.
Look, I am a 28-year-old cricketer now. The next two years are extremely important for me. In Indian cricket, you are considered old as soon as you turn 30. Hence, I wanted to concentrate only on cricket and did not want political imbroglio to distract me in any way. That is why I decided to shift to Himachal Pradesh.
Q. What was the reaction of your Rajasthan team-mates and officials of Rajasthan cricket when you told them about your decision to move to Himachal Pradesh?
My Rajasthan team-mates obviously wanted me to stay with Rajasthan. They all are like a family to me and we bond well on and off the field. They also knew that I am a vital cog of the team and my departure would affect the balance of the team. But I lucidly explained them my point of view and the reasons behind my decision. They understood it and wished me good luck.
As far as officials of Rajasthan cricket are concerned, they did not even bother to ask me once about reasons behind my decision. They were quite apathetic to me. In fact, last year they even dropped me from the list of 70 probables for T20 Challengers Trophy. Had I become so incompetent and awful that I wasn’t even considered good enough to be included in the list of 70 probables?
I was totally gutted and deeply hurt. I reckon after giving my blood and sweat for Rajasthan cricket for 10 years, I did not deserve such a shabby treatment. Worse, they did not even tell me cogent and plausible reasons.
Q. You were toast of the town after being the top scorer in the Ranji Trophy 2011-2012 season and were a serious contender for a place in the Indian Test team. What went wrong after that?
I scored more than 1200 runs in the 2011-12 season and hence everyone expected me to emulate the same performance in the subsequent years too. Look, it is not a joke to smite more than 1,000 run every season. How many batsmen have scored 1,000 runs in multiple seasons?
After 2011-2012, every season I averaged more than 40 which I believe is a good record, if not outstanding, especially given the kind of pitches I played on. The pitches in domestic cricket in last 3 years have predominantly assisted the fast bowlers, yet I scored consistently. Perhaps if I had scored more than 1,000 runs in next 2-3 years, I would have got a chance to play for India at an international level. But that wasn’t to be.
My first-class average is over 50 after playing more than 70 matches. Is it a mediocre record? Rajasthan won the Ranji Trophy twice in a row (2010-11 and 2011-12) which is a remarkable achievement. Tell me, how many cricketers from Rajasthan played for India? Forget me, what about Pankaj Singh? He is one of the greatest fast bowlers I have seen in domestic cricket in last 10 years. He performed on all kind of surfaces and won matches for Rajasthan on a regular basis. Why was he ignored for so long?
Now, compare this with Karnataka. They have now won Ranji Trophy twice in arrow, just like Rajasthan did. See how many of their players have represented India. I’m not saying they don’t deserve it. I am only pointing out the injustice which was meted out to Rajasthan cricketers.
After performing splendidly, I wasn’t even consistently selected for India ‘A’ team, leave alone Indian Test team. These days, batsmen who score a couple of centuries get selected in India ‘A’ team. Perhaps what I, and other Rajasthan cricketers, lacked was a Godfather who could push our case.
Q. Rajasthan’s performance in the last three seasons was average at best. What happened to the team after winning the Ranji Trophy for two times?
The departure of three professional cricketers – Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Aakash Chopra, and Rashmi Parida – was a big setback. It is not easy to replace these stalwarts. Also, the grinding dust-up between the BCCI and the RCA did not help the matters. I hope that there would soon be the resolution of this problem and Rajasthan would start performing well. It is a young side with many talented cricketers.
Q. You have started this Ranji season on a good note tonking the first double ton of your first-class career.
Yes, the pitch was challenging and seam bowlers were getting good purchase off the wicket. Hyderabad had compiled a huge total of 434 runs and Himachal Pradesh was 195 for 3. It was a critical juncture and the match was evenly poised. It was essential to build a good partnership to take the first innings lead. I played cautiously early on and later took the attack to the opposition. It was a special moment to notch up my first double ton in first-class cricket.
Q. How do you see your career going on from here?
At present I am trawling through the dark tunnel in hope of bathing in the sunshine again. I have always told you that I don’t want to be remembered just as a domestic or a Ranji Trophy cricketer. Right from the time I picked up the bat as a child, I always dreamt of playing for India at an international level. I know I’m clutching at straws but one never knows when the destiny rolls the dice in your favour. But for that I need to perform out of my skin in the next couple of years.