By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) Uttar Pradesh pace bowler Ankit Rajpoot, who will bowl at the Indian team’s nets during the upcoming series against England, has been a domestic workhorse quite like Brisbane Test hero Shardul Thakur, having played 63 first-class games.
And like Thakur, T Natarajan, and Navdeep Saini, who went from being net bowlers to Test players in Australia following injuries to main bowlers, 27-year-old Rajpoot is also hoping that his performance in the India nets would be noticed.
With no red-ball cricket around, the India nets are something Rajpoot is looking forward to for impressing the Indian team team management.
“My plan is to impress everyone, the captain and coaches. It has been a while since ‘A’ series or any red ball cricket has happened. So, there has been no way to impress the selectors. My plan is to impress with my bowling at nets,” Rajpoot told IANS.
“There have been no India A team matches. On the India bench, it is the A players who are called up. We have been called up for the nets. Avesh Khan [a pacer from Madhya Pradesh who has also been called up for nets] and I have played matches for India A together. I am hoping that the team management realises that we are in touch with cricket,” he said.
His selection among the five net bowlers has excited Rajpoot and raised his hope.
“We know that we could be drafted in as replacements any time. Due to Covid-19, it is difficult for players to be called from outside as there is quarantine, so net bowlers’ responsibility becomes even more important,” he said.
Rajpoot came into the system via an Indian cricket board initiative to bring in players who were out of the regular system. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had started an out-of-system programme over a decade ago when the National Cricket Academy (NCA) was involved in scouting talented players who had not made the age-group state teams due to nepotism or oversight.
“The Indian board sent scouts across the country to find talent even in hinterland. We involved the NCA, and former Test cricketer Sandeep Patil. Even current bowling coach Bharat Arun was tasked to find talent,” former BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale told IANS.
Rajpoot was one of the players picked from the exercise.
Amit Asawa, a former coach of Ranji champions Rajasthan and who went to Mohali to join the BCCI Specialist Pace Bowlers’ camp, recalls nurturing a young Ankit who had come from out-of-system camp for the pace bowlers’ camp there.
“He was part of the out-of-system camp. The bowlers from there used to come for zonal, specialist pace bowlers camps for certain periods. It was an initiative for players who had not played under-16, u-19. Rajpoot was one of the rare players to make it really big. He straightaway made it to Ranji Trophy. He had good pace and a good learning attitude, and was quiet. Obviously, his height [six-foot-one] helped,” Asawa told IANS.
Interestingly, Shubman Gill too participated in the BCCI specialist pace bowlers when batsmen were called up to face the trainee bowlers. Though neither Asawa nor Rajpoot could recall Gill, but former academy manager Sushil Kapoor says a very young Gill, not even in his teens, faced Rajpoot and others at the nets.
With the India nets coming up in a week or so, Rajpoot would again be bowling at Gill preparing for the first Test against England, starting on february 5 in Chennai. If Rajpoot can rattle him or others, the Indian team coaching staff will surely notice the boy from Kanpur.