A Times of India report stated that Hokaito had to settle for coaching due to lack of playing opportunities and had previously represented Assam in 2012-13. He came out of retirement to play for his State. Also on a comeback mission was Jonathan Rongsen, who had previously played for Railways, but was made captain of Nagaland this year.
The report quoted Jonathan as saying, “Representing one’s own state is something everyone dreams of. So, when Nagaland came calling, it was only natural for me to return. They wanted someone who had played cricket at this level to guide the local boys, and I jumped at the opportunity.”
Jonathan was leading from the front as Nagaland took its baby steps in Ranji Trophy this year. Though Nagaland suffered a lot of defeats – Nagaland won just two matches and lost four – Jonathan shone and became the first player from his state to score a ton and then followed it up with successive centuries. “I was in good touch and hitting the ball really well. But since I had played mostly T20s earlier, it took three or four games for me to adapt to the longer format,” he said.
“Before we made our Ranji debut, our local players had not been exposed to this level of cricket. Transitioning into the longer format is always a big challenge as it demands temperament and takes a huge toll on the body. But, we slowly adapted and did well. Now we know exactly how to prepare for next year,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan recalls that when he was young, football was the only sport played in Nagaland and in 1998 when his family moved to Bengaluru, he started taking interest in cricket. Slowly, he was picked up by the school team and got into the Karnataka Institute of Cricket. “I was lucky to have been spotted by coach Irfan Sait who asked me to join his club and offered me free coaching. Then, I found a place in the Karnataka U-16 team and rose through the ranks gradually.”
The 32-year-old fervently hopes that the BCCI will sit up and take note of him. Nagaland’s debut in senior domestic cricket has led to several youngsters evincing keen interest in the game and the infrastructure being developed rapidly. And with Hokaito hanging up his gloves to take on a full-time coaching role now, Jonathan feels cricket in Nagaland has a bright future. “I had a great time playing alongside Hokaito this season. We have exciting youngsters coming up in the state and they are lucky to have Hokaito to guide them. Nagaland cricket is in good hands,” he said.