He has been termed one of the unluckiest cricketers to don the Test cap for India. Only the second Indian to score a Test triple-century, his promising career was brought to a sudden halt after just three further matches against Australia at home, where he managed a highest score of 26.
But for Karun Nair, an episode a few months before that once-in-a-lifetime innings showed he was probably one of the luckier ones.
While on a visit to Aranmula in Kerala for a temple festival, the boat that Karun was seated on capsized in the river Pampa. The 100-odd people on the boat were stranded with very little hope until rescue boats arrived to take them back to safety.
“It [the incident] puts your life into perspective. I think it makes you think in a different way because that was almost like, I had said my goodbyes to myself at least,” Karun said recalling the unfortunate incident during a chat with Sportstar.
“I think after that I’ve been more fearful of my life. I was more careless and rash before that. I think that incident made me grow way past my years,” he added.
Seven years after the incident, six after his last appearance for the national team, Karun continues to believe in making a comeback at the highest level.
“You keep learning every day and at the moment the only way back is scoring in each game. That’s my only thought process, how can I get back into the India team if there’s an opportunity?” he said.
“I certainly feel that I have the capabilities to play Test cricket. Whenever I get the opportunity to play for India A, that’s when I should be capitalizing,” he added.
Game time has been scarce in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well. Since 2018, Karun has made only eight appearances in the competition across four teams – Punjab Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and the Lucknow Super Giants.
Karun remains confident about making it count when the chance arrives. “It’s been hard, the last few seasons. I have just warmed the benches. I’m really looking forward to that opportunity,” the batter said. “And I’m sure that when I receive that opportunity, I will contribute. The self-belief is there.”
The 31-year-old says he endured a similar phase when he started his senior career. “Before I made my First-Class debut, I was just warming the benches for three seasons,” he said.
“I was just watching and learning from the sides, from my mistakes and others’ mistakes. I’m trying. I’m working on various aspects of my games. I’m just waiting to showcase what I can contribute,” he added.
After a trophy-laden stint with Karnataka in the domestic circuit, Karun moved to Vidarbha ahead of the current season.
He had been a middle-order mainstay for Karnataka since his List A debut in 2012 against Goa. He was part of the squad that won four Vijay Hazare Trophy (VHT) and two Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) titles in the last decade, even captaining the side in the 2017/18 VHT, when it beat Saurashtra in the final.
The decision to move to a new team comes after he was not selected to represent the side during the SMAT and the VHT in 2022.
Now into his second tournament with Vidarbha, Karun has had a positive start and says he has adjusted well to the new environment.
“I think it has been amazing. The team has given me the freedom to go out there and express myself, which is really important when you come into a new team. So [I am] really happy with how things are,” the batter said.
Before the domestic leg, he had a productive stint playing for Northamptonshire in the County Championship Division One, where he scored a century at The Oval and a half-century at Edgbaston.
The form has continued into the domestic tournaments as well. During the 2023 SMAT, the 31-year-old scored an unbeaten 95 chasing 212 against Bengal and struck another fifty against Jharkhand, albeit in a losing cause.
“I had two really good innings against two really good teams. I got a couple of starts in the other games as well, which I should have capitalized on. But all in all, really happy with how the tournament went,” he said.
Vidarbha has had a good start to the VHT as well, winning five out of six games so far, with Karun contributing with a hundred against Hyderabad and a half-century versus Meghalaya. With the path to the knockouts almost secured, he says the team is confident of going deep into the tournament.
“I think we’re on the right path. I think everyone’s chipping in at the right moment,” he said. “It’s about [taking it] game by game and when we get into the knockouts, it’s a different tournament. Then it is about standing up and performing.”
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