North West Warriors Head Coach Bobby Rao left on a flight to India at the weekend after he landed a coaching position with his native
Hyderabad Cricket Association. The former Indian Test player skippered his beloved Hyderabad to the Ranji trophy in 1987, the only
time they have won it in 70 years, and he has always been held in great esteem in the region.
The coaching offer came as something of a surprise, albeit it has been on the table for a few weeks now, during which time Rao deliberated long and hard with his family. The upshot is that he has taken a 3-month break from his work in Strabane and will travel to India on his own initially.
Wife Josephine will join Bobby later in the summer and it is at that point that they will decide their next move, with a 2-year contract available there should he want it.Rao has been pretty much an ever-present in and around Strabane since coming here shortly after that Ranji trophy success.
Spells with Sion Mills, Strabane, Eglinton and St Johnston, where he ended his playing career, have rarely been uneventful however it was in the coaching division where he really stamped his mark. Bobby coached pretty much all of the top players locally at one time or another but he also worked with many throughout the country having been involved with the Ireland underage set-up. Nowhere however was
his success so measured than with the Warriors.
When the new-look Interprovincial series was introduced in 2013 as an initial 3-year programme, Rao insisted that he wanted to mould a young, all-local team, with the aim of gelling them into a competent unit by the end of the first 3 years. He could easily have opted to
bring in David Cooke, Peter Gillespie, Decker Curry, Gary Neely and the likes but unlike the other two combatants, Rao refused to go down
He reasoned that the Interpros were designed to forge the next generation of Ireland International players and he set about making it happen. It will have been a mighty proud day for him last month at Bready when no less than 5 home-grown players ran down the steps to line out for their country against Scotland in the first of their T20 ODI’s.
It was tough at the start as experienced Knights and Lightning teams picked off his young side in the first season but the tide started to turn with a fantastic win over the southerners at Strabane Park on the last day of the 2013 season. 12 months later the North West boys
won the T20 series and this season they failed by a hair’s breadth to retain it, however they sit top of the 3-day table, the series’ Mecca, with just one home match to go.
Obviously the Warriors hierarchy are reluctant to lose their Head Coach and it is believed that they could well decide not to search for a replacement until the initial three months is up.
A source close to the Union said that “while no official statement looks likely to come from the North West Board for a while yet, there is a possibility, however slight, that Bobby could return at the end of the summer.Bobby has plenty of commitments in Ireland given his family, friends, work etc. and it is far from certain that he would be able to leave those for the duration of his contract. This initial three month trip will give the family time to work out what is best for them”.
“Given that this is a man who thinks little of putting in 30 hour shifts each week and given the huge progress he has made with the Warriors in the past couple of years, they obviously don’t want to replace him unless they absolutely have to. The Elite Cricket Committee has already indicated that they wish to meet with the Warriors’ players before anything else happens. With just one 50 – over game and that 3-dayer to come at the end of the summer there is no real urgency just yet”.
For Rao however the next chapter began on Sunday when he flew back to Hyderabad. One and all will wish him the best of luck with this new challenge.