Jonathan’s journey of fortitude

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Bengaluru Blasters captain Rongsen Jonathan. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

In the Karnataka Premier League auctions over the years, Rongsen Jonathan is one player who has always been in demand. There have been surprise picks and omissions but Jonathan’s name never fails to trigger a bidding war among the franchises.

In a league that promotes the game in the State and unearths local heroes, this player from the Northeast has etched a name for himself. “I am the second fastest to score 1000 runs in KPL after Mayank Agarwal,” Jonathan beams. “I have won many matches while batting in the middle overs. It’s a big responsibility that I have mastered and I believe that gives the franchises enough confidence to pick me,” he tells reporters at a press conference ahead of the eighth edition of the KPL.

When the Nagaland-born batsman made his List A and T20 debut for Karnataka a decade ago, he was one of the rarest cricketers from the Northeast region to have made it big in domestic cricket. Today, the 32-year-old, is happy leading Nagaland cricket team.

It was 22 years ago when his dream took wings. Hailing from a State passionate about football, Jonathan could have followed the herd. But his heart longed for cricket. In 1997, his father’s decision to pursue his PhD in Bengaluru was the turning point.

“Those were amazing days,” Jonathan recalls. “We moved to Bengaluru when I was 10 years old and my father put me in St Joseph’s European High School, one of the best places for cricket in the city. I made great friends there. There was Robin Uthappa in my school and in age-group cricket, he was already a big name. I looked up to him and we practiced together. Playing in Cottonian Shield and Parle G tournaments was a great experience. There were popular names like Gaurav Dhiman and Rayan Ninan. I tried to catch up to them and I learnt a lot in the process,” he explains.    

Consistent showing in inter-school and KSCA tournaments as a 14-year-old earned him a place in the Karnataka U-16 side. “I consider that a great achievement,” Jonathan, who has also plied his trade with Railways, says. The kind of hardships he went through makes his effort appear more significant.

“It’s not easy in the beginning when you are from Northeast. Many people disliked me. But there are always good people and I am thankful to them. Staying alone, as a child, is a big test. My parents went back home after my father’s PhD. As an eighth standard student, I lived as a paying guest, cooked and cleaned my clothes everyday. Doing all these things after rigorous sessions of cricket can break you but as they say, hard work pays off,” he says.

Jonathan was also a victim of stereotyping. “My football coach in school told me my future lies in football and not cricket. I got called names by the crowd when I used to field at the boundary.

“I had to always request my captain to place me at cover or point,” he laughs.

Jonathan believes in the mantra of following one’s passion.

“If you do what you love, nobody can stop you. I am happy that Ranji Trophy has come to Nagaland. No matter how popular football is, it is nothing compared to the career opportunities that cricket provide. In the next two-three years, cricket will outshine football in Northeast,” he predicts.

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