The progress of the North West Warriors on the Interprovincial circuit has provided arguably the tournament’s biggest success to date but the man mostly responsible for that could well be coming to the end of his reign.
Following the Warriors’ T20 win against Leinster at Eglinton recently, Bobby Rao advised his players that he had been offered a coaching contract by the Hyderabad Cricket Association and it was with a heavy heart that the former Indian Test players confirmed that he would be leaving, temporarily at least, this weekend.
“The offer has been discussed over the past few weeks but I had a lot of business to take care of before I could clear my mind. The family is obviously well settled in Tyrone and I had plenty on my plate in my regular job with Strabane Ethic Community Association.
“As well as that we had a heavy fixture schedule with the Warriors and I wanted to make sure we didn’t take our eye off the ball during that time. We won the T20 competition in 2014 and only lost out in the defence of it this time on the fact that Leinster got a bonus point.
“We are top of the three-day table going into our final game against Lightning at Bready and I think we have proved to everyone that we are capable of holding our own at this level.
“That was what we set out to do in 2013 and although it was difficult to begin with I believe we have a squad of North West Interprovincial players that everyone here is extremely proud of. I certainly know that I am.
“The Hyderabad offer means a lot to me because of my time there, but it is not a straightforward decision. There is a certain amount of resettlement involved, so I will be going on my own to begin with and Josephine, the family and I will assess things as we go.
“North West cricket is in my heart - these players are also like family to me. I know I will still be doing what I can to maintain and develop links between India and the North West whatever else happens. I can’t say for certain what is going to happen just yet because there are so many imponderables but Hyderabad will be a new challenge.”
Rao’s role in North West and Irish cricket generally has been immense - travelling all over the Union at all hours of the day and night providing help to any group or player that asked him. He has remained fiercely loyal to them and they indeed to him.
He has assembled and worked with a squad of players that would run through brick walls for him and many believe that that has been the secret of the Warriors’ success.
Watching five - Andrew McBrine, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young, Graeme McCarter and David Rankin - of his charges play for Ireland against Scotland at Bready just last month was one of his proudest days in the sport.
The North West Cricket Union were able to confirm that Bobby would be leaving Ireland in the coming days but that it didn’t necessarily indicate that they would be losing him completely.
A spokesman for the Union said that “the Warriors have no games now until the end of August/start of September and they would be keeping in touch with Bobby during that time.
“The Elite Cricket Committee will be monitoring the situation but I don’t expect that there will be any knee-jerk decisions at this point and will probably wait until the time is right to comment further.
“In the meantime we do want to extend our heartfelt thanks to Bobby for everything that he has done here and if it is to be his swansong he has left this group of players, and indeed the next generation as well, in a fantastic place.
“Our sincere best wishes to Bobby, Josephine and the family in whatever they decide long-term whether that be with the Warriors or in Hyderabad.”