A few years ago, I was watching an Odisha-Mumbai Ranji Trophy match at the Wankhede stadium. Thanks to my friends Debasis Mohanty and Subhashish Bhuyan, who were the coach and manager of the Odisha team, respectively, I had the privilege of watching from close quarters.
In that match, Nataraj Behera scored twin hundreds for Odisha while Mumbai veteran Wasim Jaffer scored a huge 100. During that innings, Wasim had answers to all the queries posed to him by the Odisha bowlers, especially their strike bowler, Basant Mohanty. Basant did all he could, but the former Test star, Wasim, played a super knock.
During the course of that innings, I saw Basant and coach Debasis having frequent talks about what strategies to try out against the Mumbai veteran. Even though Basant did not succeed, it was not for want of trying. This seriousness is something which is the hallmark of Basant, who is a thinking cricketer.
In that knock, Jaffer scored at will, but Basant kept him quiet with his trademark and customary economy. This economy rate has been a hallmark of Basant’s first class career spanning 99 matches. His career economy is just 2.3 runs per over, which is remarkable indeed.
In his career, he has taken as many as 384 wickets with a best bowling effort of 7/27. He has taken 5 wickets in an innings 23 times and has also taken 10 wickets in a match 3 times. He is an unsung hero of 1st class cricket and is distinctly unlucky, with his astonishing economy rate and wicket-taking ability not to play cricket at a bigger level. Even in List A and T20, his career economy rates are below 4 (3.89) and 7 (6.44), which is amazing indeed. However he has played just a couple of One-dayers for India-A and nothing more.
Basant is 35 and it does not seem that he can play for India any more. But the lion-hearted cricketer is still motivated enough to give his best for Odisha. He said that what Debasish and Shiv Sundar Das did for him (he calls them Debu da and Bhai), he wants to do for today’s youngsters. Last year, he was the leading wicket-taker for Odisha in the 2018-19 season and this year he has played an important part in taking Odisha to the quarter-finals with 30 wickets and also playing the mentor’s role to fellow bowlers Rajesh Mohanty and Suryakant Pradhan who have 32 and 35 wickets, respectively. Indeed while Debasis was the mentor for Basant, he is playing the same role for Rajesh and Suryakant who are just 19 and 26.
Basant is primarily a bowler and has just 2 50’s in 1st class cricket. However, as a bowler, no one takes him lightly, as the following example from Aakash Chopra’s book shows. Aakash says he and the great Virender Sehwag were batting and Sehwag played two wild shots. Aakash went up to him to ask him to remain cool, but Sehwag told him to relax and said that he was doing it deliberately as he wanted to make the bowlers lose their length. The reason given by Sehwag was that “Basant was making the ball talk” and hence he wanted to distract him.
What a compliment from one of the most destructive of batsmen in the history of the game.
Basant works at the AG office in Bhubaneswar. As his mentor, the Income Tax Commissioner, Sobhan Kar, who is himself a super cricketer, says, “Income Tax’s loss is AG’s gain (Basant was earlier working with Income Tax, Gujarat).”
Sobhan, Basant and I are from the same cricket club of Bhubaneshwar, Pragati Sporting, which is well known for having produced several top-class cricketers over the last few decades, including Shiv Sundar Das, Ranjib Biswal, Sritam Das, Amiya Ray and many others.
Today, Basant plays his 100th first class match vs. Bengal at the beautiful Barabati stadium in Cuttack. Congrats Basant for your 100th 1st class match. Hope this fantastic feat is recognized by the OCA which gives you a grand felicitation that you richly deserve.
Its 100 and counting, Basant. Congrats and well done.