Ranji Trophy: Yo Mahesh overcomes battle scars

The pacer has been to hell and back and he is still only 29. He returned to the Ranji side after four years, fired out key Mumbai batsmen Akhil Herwadkar and Suryakumar Yadav, and then, surfacing at No. 9, produced a stunning unbeaten 103 to give Tamil Nadu the lead.

It seemed curtains for the Tamil Nadu paceman in 2014 when he had cartilage tears in both knees.   -  Prashant Nakwe

The passage of time leaves behind its scars. When Yo Mahesh feels his knees, he smiles.

He is reminded of the surgeon’s knife and the struggle. Yo Mahesh has been to hell and back and he is still only 29.

The rough ride has been worth it. “I never lost hope,” he said to Sportstar on Wednesday.

When Yo Mahesh, returning to the Ranji side after four years, fired out key Mumbai batsmen Akhil Herwadkar and Suryakumar Yadav, and then, surfacing at No. 9, produced a stunning unbeaten 103 to give Tamil Nadu the lead, memories of his journey must have swirled around in his head.

It seemed curtains for the Tamil Nadu paceman in 2014. Yo Mahesh had cartilage tears on not one but both knees.

Then, encouraged by his wife Anusha, he decided to undergo an expensive surgery in the United Kingdom. It took eight months for him to begin bowling again. “I started with two steps, then four,” he recalled.

He had to shut out the negative thoughts, went through the process and things began to fall in place. Yo Mahesh, subsequently, had his moments with Chepauk Super Gillies in the TNPL and Grand Slam in the TNCA first division league.

A spot in the Tamil Nadu Ranji side, however, proved elusive. Not finding a place among the State probables this season left him disappointed.

He then convinced bowling coach L. Balaji to give him a opportunity to bowl at the State team nets. He impressed Balaji and coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar who put in a word with the selectors. Soon, Yo Mahesh was on the flight to Mumbai.

Yo Mahesh dwelt on his lead-clinching century, batting with No. 10 Rahil Shah in a critical stand, and trusting the ability of his partner. “We played to a plan, spent time at the crease and knew the runs would come.”

Yo Mahesh plays straight against pacemen, can leave the ball, and employs the flick effectively. He strikes down the ground against spinners, uses the sweep. “I have evolved as a batsman,” he said.

Someone who made his Ranji debut in 2006, Yo Mahesh’s record of 101 scalps in 47 matches at 35.05 and 967 runs at 24.17 indicates his promise as an India under-19 cricketer has not been entirely fulfilled.

In his prime, this lanky paceman with a high-arm action and a semi side-on release, clocked 140 kmph. “I bowl between 130 and 135 now, but swing the new ball and can reverse the old. I am bowling to a good rhythm now,” he said.

He has taken inspiration from Ashish Nehra who has played international cricket till the age of 38. “He has shown us that if you are fit and have the ability, you can always return and make an impact.”

Yo Mahesh is back in the swing of things.