Great to be known as a Ranji Trophy cricketer: Koushik

Karnataka medium-pacer Vasuki Koushik has been quietly impressive in his maiden season of first-class cricket.

Statistically, with 13 wickets from the first three Ranji Trophy matches this season, Vasuki Koushik is by far Karnataka's best quick bowler.

Statistically, with 13 wickets from the first three Ranji Trophy matches this season, Vasuki Koushik is by far Karnataka's best quick bowler.   -  Vivek Bendre

Vasuki Koushik has made a good start to life in first-class cricket. He has 13 wickets from his first three Ranji Trophy matches and has been, statistically, Karnataka's best quick bowler this season.

Koushik debuted for the state in the 2018-19 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, when he played a pivotal role in Karnataka’s triumph, finishing the tournament as the team’s highest wicket-taker. Koushik was seen as a better fit for limited-overs cricket at that stage, with his canny medium-pace. But R. Vinay Kumar's move to Puducherry and Prasidh Krishna's injury presented the 27-year-old with an opportunity this season. Thrust into the spotlight, he has not disappointed.

"This is a dream come true," he tells Sportstar ahead of Karnataka's clash with Saurashtra. "I always wanted to be known as a first-class cricketer. To be called a Ranji Trophy cricketer is a big tag."

Playing red-ball cricket has required a change in approach, admits Koushik. "You have to make changes in mindset," he says. "This is a game of patience.  You can bowl 20-25 overs without getting a single wicket. Then in three overs you can get three or four wickets. You shouldn't lose hope. You should be patient."

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That patience in Koushik's bowling was on full display in Karnataka's season-opener in Dindigul. With Tamil Nadu racing to 46/0 at lunch on the fourth day in pursuit of a target of 181, Koushik and Krishnappa Gowtham strangled the batsmen to turn the tide of the contest. "We bowled 24 overs for 38 runs (and four wickets) in that session and took a Tamil Nadu win out of the equation," recalls Koushik, who finished with 1 for 23 from 12 overs in the second innings. "That was where the match turned. Ronit (More), Gowtham and I decided to keep it tight. After the match ended, I realized that my spell was important."

Karnataka's pace bowlers have played a key role in the side's performances this season, accounting for 43 wickets among them. Koushik hails the influence of Abhimanyu Mithun on the fast-bowling unit. "Mithun anna has been a guiding force," he says. “His spells this season have been amazing. He's an inspiration. He has achieved so much but he still has the same commitment for Karnataka in every match."

Karnataka conceded the first-innings lead to Himachal Pradesh two weeks ago but bounced back strongly a few days later, defeating Mumbai at home. The pace bowlers were in top form again. "We are growing as a bowling unit," says Koushik. "Everyone is among the wickets. It feels great."

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