The 23-year-old is hoping to make a mark in the Ranji Trophy and be eligible to play in the IPL as a local player
The 23-year-old left-hand top-order batter was earlier vying for a spot at Vidarbha. However, he was left out of their set-up altogether for the truncated 2020-21 season, and that is when talks began with Odisha, Rath’s state of birth.
“I had served a year’s cooling-off period, played club cricket in Nagpur and hoped to be picked for Vidarbha. But when things didn’t happen, I had to look for a new opportunity, and that is when Odisha happened,” Rath told ESPNcricinfo. “I can speak Oriya, I was born in Bhubaneswar, so in many ways this was a logical next step for me.”
“I have spent over a month with the squad,” he says. “The team is talented, but have been flying under the radar for some reason. The talent is abundant, and I hope we can all make a difference this season. For me personally, it’s about doing whatever I can to put myself up for selection. The best way to do that is keep scoring runs wherever I play.”
“It’s not hard to see why he’s respected so much. He can be a tough coach [and] at the same time be someone who can put his hand around your shoulder when you need it. His record speaks for itself. If I can tap into all that experience, it’ll be beneficial to me and the team.”
The move to Odisha is another step in what has been a “nomadic career” for Rath. As a teenager, he set sights on a cricket career in England, where he attended boarding school. But immigration rules that don’t allow players from an Associate nation to qualify as a professional meant he had to stay back in Hong Kong, where he had moved with his parents as a 14-year-old.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo