Kumar Kushagra was not even 18 when he became the youngest to score a 250-plus score in a First-Class match. That innings, against Nagaland in March 2022 during the Ranji Trophy, came at a strike rate of 98.88, with 37 fours and two sixes.
The East Zone batter likes taking on the bowlers and has a precocious understanding of which shots to play and where exactly to hit them.
“At the higher level, if you remain in defensive mode, the bowlers will pounce on you. Initially, if you hit the bowler for two-three sixes or good boundaries, then the bowler starts going as per your game plan,” Kushagra told Sportstar.
“I always want to dominate the game. I have always felt that dominating is more profitable,” he added.
Kushagra’s mentality of taking on “any bowler” has been on display during the ongoing Deodhar Trophy where he played two crucial knocks – 98 vs North Zone and 53 vs West Zone - and has scored 159 runs in four innings with the help of eight sixes and as many fours.
His use of the crease and stepping out against the spinners has been a highlight to watch, something which he has practised before coming to the Southern part of the country where the ball turns more and bounces less.
“Stepping out is something I have practised. When we come to South, the wickets are slow, so the ball doesn’t come onto the bat, so it’s better to reach the ball and hit rather than wait for the ball where the chances of hitting it is low.”
The two memorable innings Kushagra played in the last week came while another youngster, Riyan Parag, was at the crease with him. Against North, the duo added 235 runs for the sixth wicket, and, after East was reduced to 57 for five and against West, the pair once again joined hands to stitch together 150.
“Our communication is quite good. Before the game we sit down together and talk about which bowler to target, how the pitch is behaving, and what the bowler is doing,” he said.
“Since we play at such positions, we know we can’t afford to lose our wickets, so the focus is always to remain calm and attack at the same time.”
During Tuesday’s game, with the ball spinning and not coming onto the bat nicely, the duo decided to take the game deep after coming to the crease in the 31st over with 157 on the board. The duo focused on taking the singles rather than attempting big shots, however it didn’t appear like they were running fast, probably preserving energy on a hot and humid day in Puducherry.
“We initially targeted around 240 runs but once we got set, we decided to attack, and with some extraordinary hits went past 300 runs.”
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