There was plenty to admire in Natham on Wednesday. While the stadium, basked in the evening sun surrounded by lush greenery and hills, was a sight to behold, a batsman wasn’t trying too hard to steal the stadium’s thunder.
Nikhil Gangta was the cynosure of all eyes as he masterfully crafted a century to guide India Blue to a position of immense strength in the Duleep Trophy final against India Red.
It was easy and simple for Gangta. He had to play the ball on merit, wait for the bad balls and time the quicks with surgical precision. He did that to the cue.
He moved around with ease. His frontfoot strokes had a flow and his backfoot punches had venom. When the bowlers bowled short, he took to the backfoot instantly and launched them on the leg side and shifted to the frontfoot in a jiffy and savoured the juicy half volleys with exquisite drives.
But how does Gangta seem so naturally gifted and poised? “I love music. I listen to music. I love singing. Whenever I am at the non-striker’s end, I sing songs to keep myself composed,” Gangta revealed after his century.
One of the greatest authors of all time Leo Tolstoy had said, “Music is the shorthand of emotion” and Gangta on Wednesday took his emotions up his sleeve to hog the limelight.
It was Teacher’s Day and it was a perfect gift Gangta could give his teacher. “I dedicate this century to my coach, Vikram Rathour sir. He was the one who changed my approach. He instilled self-belief in me and made me believe that I can score runs and play for the country some day,” Gangta said.
His coach, who has almost 11,500 runs in first class cricket would have been proud of his ward on Wednesday.
While he has reached half-way through to his destination by scoring runs, Gangta is sure to travel the other half soon. “My plans are clear. All I have to do is score runs and I am sure to be noticed.
Rathore sir has a vision for me and showed it to me. He has enriched me with numerous examples and I am sure to hit the stride in playing for the country very soon,” the 26-year-old added, with confidence.
Gangta was a man on a mission. He spent more than two sessions building his innings, block by block. Nervous nineties seemed to have gotten the better of him as he took almost 30 deliveries for the 10 runs he needed for a century.
“My plans are clear. I had gotten out for 90, 97 and 99 earlier. I was determined not to make a mistake this time. It is a five-day match, there is no paucity of time and I played with extra caution,” he admitted.
Gangta’s determination is sure to take him places. The Himachal Pradesh player feels India Blue has the advantage.
“The spinners will come into play from day three. We have some good spinners in our team and we are sure to wrap up their (India Red) innings by Thursday. We have to bowl in the right areas and with some assistance from the pitch, we are sure to have a complete stronghold on this match,” he said.
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