Gowtham: 'On my day, I can do wonders'

This was Gowtham's first season playing in the IPL, and though 126 runs and 11 wickets may not seem like extraordinary returns, there is no denying he made an impact.

K. Gowtham: "It's not about my own numbers. I want to help the team win games."   -  SHREEDUTTA CHIDANANDA

The defining performance of K. Gowtham's IPL season came against Mumbai Indians in Jaipur. He walked out to bat with Rajasthan Royals needing 43 off 17 and, as the Sawai Mansingh stadium looked on gobsmacked, finished the job off with two balls to spare. He remained undefeated on 33 off 11, even refusing a single at one point in the final over.

Self-belief, it is fair to say, is not something Gowtham is short of. “It's in my nature,” he smiles. “I've been the same since my junior days. I've never needed someone to pump me up. That day, I thought if I hit a couple of big ones, we could definitely pull it off.”

This was Gowtham's first season playing in the IPL, and though 126 runs and 11 wickets may not seem like extraordinary returns, there is no denying he made an impact. He scored his runs at a strike rate verging on 200 and bowled in the Powerplay.

Last year, he had spent the entire tournament on the bench at Mumbai Indians; the 2018 edition has changed the way he will be perceived hereafter. “I've got better as a player [this IPL]. My confidence has grown. I believe that on my day I can do wonders.”

Gowtham will carry that confidence into India-A's tri-series against West Indies-A and England Lions, set to begin in the UK next week. "It's not about my own numbers. I want to help the team win games," he says.

Gowtham is now enjoying a remarkable career revival, having played three first-class games in 2012 before falling off the radar. In 2016, he returned to the Karnataka Ranji Trophy side, since when he has taken 65 first-class and 27 List-A wickets, earning himself a spot in India-A teams.

“I have changed physically and mentally (since 2012),” he says. “My fitness has improved. And the way I think is a complete change from before. There are no doubts when I enter the field now.”

This was not the case earlier. “When you're not doing well and you're not getting picked for anything, you get negative thoughts,” he says. “Six years back, I wondered if I should continue playing cricket. When you're not getting anything financially, you start doubting yourself. But my parents were most supportive. They said, 'You just go and play.' To see them happy now...I enjoy that more than my own success.”

The IPL has brought him fame, Gowtham admits. “When you walk around, people notice you now. But this is what you play for, isn't it? This is what you live for.”

It has also brought him money: Rajasthan Royals paid over Rs. 6 crore for his services this season, while Mumbai had signed him for Rs. 2 crore last year. “I'm still the same person,” he says. “If you get carried away by all that, you must remember that everything can come crashing down with one bad game. You have to enjoy the moment. But you don't have to fly. Keep your feet on the ground. Just don't fake anything.”