A stylish batsman, Nitish Rana has been a key performer for Delhi in the ongoing domestic (2015-16) season. While he emerged as the top-scorer for the Gautam Gambhir-led team in the Ranji Trophy with 557 runs in seven matches in his debut first-class season, the left-hand batsman is also scoring prolifically in the shorter formats of the game. He was the second highest scorer for Delhi in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 218 runs and leads the batting chart of his team in the Syed Mustaq Ali T20 tournament with 286 runs, including 21 sixes and 23 boundaries.
Rana, who scored an unbeaten 60 off 44 balls to help Delhi to victory in the Super League against Jharkhand and stay in contention for a spot in the finals, credits his captain and the Delhi coach, Vijay Dahiya for his consistent success in the ongoing season. “We have been gelling well as team and the atmosphere has been good. It was my first season of first-class cricket. I am lucky that Gautam (Gambhir) bhaiyya is the captain. I haven’t seen a better captain than him. It is thanks to his and coach’s backing that we are here today.”
Rana’s uncle played cricket and everyone in the family wanted him to play the sport too. “When I got selected for the U-16 side, I felt, yes, I can play. Before that, I would only play for fun. I was a little fat and would play to reduce weight. When, I got selected for the U-16s was, I took it a little seriously.”
Reflecting on his early days in cricket, Rana said, “I have been doing well since my first season of Under-16. I was the top run-getter for Delhi then and at the Under-19 level as well. The second year, when India U19 won the ICC Cricket World Cup under Unmukt Chand (in 2012) did not turn out to be a good one. That was the season when I spoke to Gautam bhaiyya and since then I have been doing well. He spoke to me about a few technical things which have helped my cricket.
“I had developed two-three faults and he told me a few things which helped me. Since then for three seasons I have been performing well.”
Speaking about his preparation ahead of the season, Rana said, “I practice to bat in the toughest of situations on tough wickets so that I can bat with ease in the match.”
The young batsman who has held the key to Delhi’s batting along with Unmukt Chand this season, is also a big hitter of the ball. He has struck 21 sixes in the ongoing T20 tournament. “I watch the ball and hit it according to the situation. I practice at the LB Shastri ground where I hit sixes from the centre wicket which has helped.”
But hitting sixes is something that he has developed recently under the guidance of former Australia captain, Ricky Ponting during his time with the Mumbai Indians. “I wasn’t doing that earlier. After I got picked in the Indian Premier League, I started doing that. “Ricky Pointing had told me that my backlift is a little low. He told me that by the time the bowler releases the ball; your backlift should be complete, so that the downswing doesn’t take time. I have worked on that and that has helped. That is what I am doing now in the T20s,” he explained.
Being part of the MI dressing room has helped Rana develop his game. “I came to know a lot of things. I saw a higher level of cricket and learnt a lot of things. And probably it is because of that, that I am doing well in T20. What I learnt last year, I tried it during practice.”
The numbers suggest that the hard work is paying off and helping Rana take his game to the next level. He has batted calmly for Delhi under pressure like in the must-win match against Jharkhand in the Super League. “I understand my game I know what I have to do. I am clear in my mind. I know what I have to do once I am at the crease and I back myself and play,” he stated.
Rana hopes to carry his form into the IPL and perform for MI when he gets the opportunity, but before that he is keen to help Delhi finish the season with a title. “Our team has been doing well from the beginning itself. In days (Ranji Trophy) cricket unfortunately, we didn’t qualify (for the Ranji Trophy knockouts) by one run. We played the final in the one-day tournament (Vijay Hazare Trophy) and now we are doing well in T20s. We lost badly after quite some time yesterday (in the match against Gujarat). We have a chance of qualifying for the final if we win the next game. Now we are looking to play the final and hoping to end the season well.”