Services' Swain makes a mark in tough game

The stand-in captain made 74 to raise hopes of upsetting Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy semifinal.

Sowmya Ranjan Swain showing the battle scars earned while fielding at point.

NEW DELHI: Services stand-in skipper Sowmya Ranjan Swain compiled a fighting 74 against Mumbai to give hope to his team for an unlikely upset. He partnered Yashpal Sharma for 114 runs for the fourth wicket, but the quick dismissals of both batsmen on the final morning deflated the home side.

Swain has been described as an ‘attacking batsman who goes for his shots’ by Services' coach Deepak Bhaskar, although he’s done nothing of note this season aside from an unbeaten century versus Himachal Pradesh. Our current interest in him has more to do with his replacing the valiant Soumik Chatterjee as captain in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Mumbai.

Was the 25-year-old up to the task of assuming responsibility for such a crucial game?

“I enjoy captaincy. I play more responsibly when I’m leading the side. I captained Services in the Gold Cup in Dehradun last year and had a run of good scores. I made about 250 in five innings. Helming the team has a calming effect on the way I bat.”

Swain had the big boots of Chatterjee to fill. In the quarterfinal against Uttar Pradesh at Indore, Chatterjee had hobbled on one leg to conclude a memorable chase, before the extent of damage to his battered knee ruled him out of the final.

“It was an easy decision to make Swain captain. He has been leading the side off and on and ever since Yashpal Singh stepped down to focus on his batting, he has been a good option,” Bhaskar says.

Swain said he was unaffected by the pressure of what was Services’ biggest match in over half-a-century.

“It’s definitely a big job to be captain in the Ranji semis against a team like Mumbai. It’s a pressure situation but a good opportunity for me.”

Starting his career with Odisha, Swain joined Services when he realized that not having played much age-limited cricket there would severely restrict his selection to higher levels of competition.

“I thought my cricket career was over when I joined Services because I had no idea they had such a big platform for the sport. I made it through the played in the selection trials and didn’t look back.”

Of the present season, he said, “I have been getting starts, but haven’t converted them to big scores. I have a tendency of chasing the ball outside off. This is something I have to watch out for. We will definitely take heart from this season and try to better our performances in the next.”