It’s been five years now since I have been playing in the Ranji Trophy. My debut came quite early when I was 17 years old, studying in the 12th standard. The first season was satisfactory in terms of my performance as I managed a total of 400 runs in 5 matches which included a 151-run score against railways in my fourth game. I consider It as one of my best knocks till date. But now I can say that those were early days. As it is said that a true worth of a new player is gauged in the second season, I failed miserably there.
Now when I look back I can pick up the reasons for my failure. Just before the third season, I had enjoyed the grand success in the Under-19 World Cup. Winning the World Cup in Australia against Australia in the final was something I really cherish. The kind of welcome we received when we came back to India was indeed very heady. It went into my head too as I started expecting too much from myself. My real test had begun. My next two seasons too did not go as expected. Last season, though I scored three centuries early on, but failed again to capitalise in terms of my total tally of runs in the tournament.
Now I know through my experience that the Ranji tournament can bring a huge difference. What matters is how good a season you can make when things are on a roll and likewise how early can you come out of that slump which doesn’t seem to leave you. As there is hardly any gap between the matches, momentum plays a major role. But the length of the tournament is too long for the momentum to carry on, so it’s also about phases; doing your best in those small phases to make an impact. In the later part of the tournament, which is the knockout phase, you have to take on the pressure and perform because your performance in these crucial matches separates you from the rest.
On the philosophical side this game teaches you real good lessons. At times you are on top of the world. But the moment you start relishing it, there begins another phase and you are brought down flat to mother earth. What I have learned through these ups and downs is to keep a balance. Neither be too happy nor be depressed. It is very important to keep working hard on your basics while you are scoring runs. That is how one can achieve consistency.
I think cricket is the same wherever you play, but finesse is something which changes at each stage. Indeed experience plays a major role. Though sometimes, inexperience also works as you just play your game without thinking too much. Experience brings wisdom to some but some players can start over analysing the game. This can affect your performance. Probably I became a victim of over analysis at some stage which made things really tough for me. But I am happy that phase is over now. I am out of that shell and back to playing this game as an amateur, enjoying every challenge without being judgemental or too critical of myself. Success to me is an after effect of simplicity and calmness, relaxed but yet intensely focussed approach. It is about responding (wisdom) not reacting (impulsive). It is about being able to listen to your inner voice, your gut feeling. Being at peace with myself is the real key for me.
The challenges increase as soon as you enter the man’s world from the U-19 category. It’s like a student graduating from school to college and finding a job. You realize that you are all by yourself, struggling to find your ground, trying new things out, discovering the ways of the world. But isn’t it part of each one of our journeys? A true warrior learns everything and knows how to use his wisdom to assess what he wants at that moment.
Fortunately of late I have been given an opportunity to play for India ‘A‘ regularly. It has really helped me develop as a player. Captaining has been an advantage as it brings out the best in me. It’s good to see so many youngsters featuring in the ‘A’ series from various countries go on and play for their respective senior teams. It gives you motivation believing that you too are not far off. It’s so close but yet too far or maybe the other way around, keeping you charged and on your toes.
Right now my focus is on the Ranji Trophy matches. I want to enjoy playing this game. I must reveal that I have stopped setting goals for myself. I have left my past behind and I do not bother about the future. It’s all about enjoying the moment, enjoying the process and not the outcome. There is so much to learn in so many fronts of life. I keep telling myself to just carry on, stay patient and be joyful. Sky is the limit.