The recent order by the Supreme Court in January this year came as a joy to sportslovers in Bihar. The Apex Court ordered BCCI to allow Bihar to play in the Ranji Trophy and other tournaments within the country.

Opportunities in Cricket have been non-existent in the state for the past 17 years since it was divided into Bihar and Jharkhand in 2000. This led to the disaffiliation of the cricket association in Bihar in the Ranji Trophy. After being disqualified from playing in the Ranji Trophy, cricket in Bihar has been further hit by corruption, negligence and dirty politics.

Before the bifurcation of Bihar and Jharkhand, the state had a common Bihar Cricket Association (BCA). After the division of the states, the cricket board was split into Bihar Cricket Association and Cricket Association of Jharkhand (now Jharkhand State Cricket Association) in 2001.

Soon, BCA lost its affiliation after the Presidential election of 2002. BCA lost its voting power in the BCCI and was reduced as an unofficial working body. BCA was divided into two camps, one run by Lalu Prasad Yadav and the other run by Ajay Narayan Sharma. The bifurcation created confusion since every district had two BCAs and in the capital Patna too, BCA had two offices being run simultaneously.

Meanwhile, in 2002, cricketer turned politician Kirti Azad launched the Association of Bihar Cricket (ABC). On similar lines, Cricket Association of Bihar (CAB) was formed by Aditya Verma and Prem Ranjan Patel. The state had almost four associations and none of them were affiliated. The internal division and the fight for recognition hampered the growth of cricket in the state.

Murari, former player said that playing for a team under a single Association would mean getting rejected by the other associations.

The four separate bodies: ACB led by Kirti Jha Azad, BCA headed by DIG of CRPF Alok Raj, CAB under Adhikari M M Prasad and Mrityunjay Tiwari-led Bihar Players' Association merged in 2006, isolating Lalu Prasad Yadav’s BCA.

Chhattisgarh started its journey into the Ranji trophy by getting its associate membership in 2008, with Bihar getting the membership in the same year too. Chhattisgarh got its full membership in 2016 leaving Bihar behind.

Finally, the Supreme Court's decision to approve all the recommendations of the RM Lodha Commission in 2016 has kindled hope in Bihar that will now enjoy full membership status in the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI), as the panel had suggested. It also made BCA eligible to vote in the Board elections, and play in the Ranji Trophy and other tournaments within the country.

But the country didn’t play in the following Ranji Matches. In response to the appeal made by Aditya Verma, the Supreme Court ordered the BCCI to allow Bihar play in the Ranji Matches. Though the order liberates Cricket in the state from the administrative controls and glitches, the cricket in the state has a long way to go.

The last two decades has left many dreams shattered for the cricketers in Bihar. Cricket lovers with no prospect in the state either left the game with no hope or dedicated themselves to the game leaving it to their fate. Sarwan Ark, who has been playing for almost a decade said that after playing for his district Begusarai in Bihar migrated to play in Jharkhand for the Under-19. With little or no training and without any government sponsors the aspirants were left with a bleak future. But, some lucky ones found their feet in Ranji Matches by playing in other states.

Bihar cricketers like Ishan Kishan, who plays first class cricket and has been the Captain of India’s squad for the under-19 world cup Bihar played from Jharkhand. Ashish Kumar Prasad, a right arm bowler playing first class cricket also made his way through Jharkhand even though he is from Lohardaga in Bihar. Tejashwi Yadav who has played in IPL and Delhi Under-19s also played from Jharkhand.

But Ranji teams from the neighboring states are not accommodative enough to hone every talent from the state. Sarwan Ark was left out of the Under-19 squad after playing two matches in the trial. He proudly adds that he has played matches with Ishank Jaggi and Shahbaz Nadeem, Ranji players from Jharkhand. Though he appreciates the opportunities provided in the neighboring states, he laments the state of cricket in Bihar.

But Murari had a different tale to narrate; he said tha those migrating to other states were discriminated negleceted. Murari, is joined by scores of other players were left with no option but to quit.

Cricket Association in Jharkhand which started in 2001 has given the country, first class cricketers like the Captain of Team India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni; Saurabh Tiwari; Varun Aaron; Shahbaz Nadeem; Ishank Jaggi and many others.

The state has very few District level and other League matches under the sponsorship of the state government. Bihar Cricket Association which organises these matches in every district and at the state level is itself divided into two camps. In almost all the Districts there are two camps of BCA which conduct matches. The players are the real victims of these rivalries. Randheer Kumar, who is a part of BCA said, “Though BCA has reconciled into one in few districts, the rift continues in the almost all the districts”. Murari said, “The league and Districts level are held annually, but they are very infrequent.

Most of the tournaments in the country including the Ranji matches are held according to some fixed guidelines, which include the use of leather balls. Majority of the cricket in the state is held using Tennis balls. The practice of using the tennis ball further excludes the cricketers from progressing ahead.

The infrastructure in the state is nil. The state has a single International Stadium, Moin-Ul-Haq Stadium in Patna, which last hosted an international match in 1996. Seeing its dilapidated state, the stadium portrays the real state of the cricket in the state. In 2017, the Bihar government announced setting up a sports academy and an international cricket stadium at Rajgir in Nalanda district. But there has been no progress.

BCCI provided BCA with a grant of Rs 50 Lakh for infrastructure development and cricketing activities. The money was siphoned and an FIR was launched against BCA secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad Singh and former secretary Ajay Narayan Sharma. The fund to the BCA was stopped in the next years. Corruption which is rampant in the Bihar Cricket Association still stands as a hurdle before the state.

The state, at present, requires setting up pitches for all the districts to host District and league matches in the state. Sarwan Ark, a former cricket player lamented the indifference of the state administration to developing these,despite the money.

The order of Supreme Court is welcome, but the challenges are huge. Cricketers live with hope.

(Majid Alam is pursuing Masters in Convergent Journalism, Jamia Millia Islamia. New Delhi)