IND vs SA: What the rookies learnt at open nets in South Africa

India's young bowlers, who travelled to South Africa as net bowlers, share their experience with Sportstar.

Kerala boy Basil Thampi — who picked up 11 wickets in his debut season of the cash-rich league last year — elucidated how the tour pumped him up.   -  Special Arrangement

So far in the South African sojourn, Indian bowlers earned their praises, but the collapse of the gargantuan batting line-up blurred their achievements. Claiming 40 wickets in all four innings of the first two Tests is massive. Out of the dismissals, 30 wickets were shared among the speedsters.

There used to be a time when India sulked at not having fast enough bowlers. Today, it maintains a bank — both within and beyond the team — and ensures there are quality pacers across levels.

The idea to carry three rookie bowlers to the open nets in South Africa, before the Newlands Test, is a glimpse of the domestic pool.

Ankit Rajpoot returned with a better ‘hit the deck’ delivery, Avesh Khan polished his line and Basil Thampi imbibed confidence to chase bigger dreams.

Lessons from ‘Arun sir’

“Bharat Arun (bowling coach) sir told me a lot of technical things which helped me in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 games. He told me how to land the ball perfectly on target. My left hand used to cause me problems before, but now its fine,” the 24-year-old Rajpoot told Sportstar.

Rajpoot and clan bowled nearly eight to 10 overs per day at the nets under the supervision of Ravi Shastri (head coach) and Arun. “In the process, we also learnt how a team prepares for an international Test match,” added the Uttar Pradesh lad.

Of course, there were tips from seniors. “Rohit (Sharma) bhai told me that I was doing well and if I do better, I will be in the team someday. He said that it is all about grabbing the right opportunity to produce a clinical performance. It could be anywhere — Ranji Trophy, India A or the Indian Premier League (IPL),” he revealed.

Like others, Rajpoot is also trying to prove a point in the ongoing domestic T20 competition to earn a handsome IPL contract. He wants to return to his old franchise, Chennai Super Kings (CSK), if given a chance. “I have Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in my list too. I want to play and learn under a good captain (such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli). Success also depends on how a captain uses you. Dhoni bhai could understand my temperament during my CSK stint. He always threw the new ball at me,” recalled Rajput, who claimed six wickets in five games in Syed Mushtaq Ali so far.

Doubt clearance session

Apart from bowling to the starry Indian batters, Avesh also cleared his doubts. “My line and length improved. I also had a few doubts regarding swing, which was rectified by Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav,” he told Sportstar.

“Whatever problems I faced in the domestic season, they cleared it all. It was a huge exposure for us to bowl at world class batsmen,” added Avesh, who — on return — pocketed seven wickets in five games in the domestic T20 competition.

The Madhya Pradesh lad is an ardent fan of Kohli. He turned out for RCB last season. And his heart still beats for the franchise. “Whatever I am getting today, it is because of RCB. I want to play for them, if I had a choice, but generally, I am open to play anywhere; whoever gives me a chance,” he clarified.

How to gain confidence

Kerala boy Basil Thampi — who picked up 11 wickets in his debut season of the cash-rich league last year — elucidated how the tour pumped him up. “The opportunity to bowl to legends like Kohli and Rohit in itself is a confidence booster. A bowler can judge himself better in these situations,” said Thampi, whose dream is to play under Dhoni in the IPL.

The 21-year-old sounded excited for the upcoming IPL auctions too. “Last year, it was a dream come true. I also got the wickets of Chris Gayle and Dhoni bhai. I really wish to play for CSK next; on top of that, I am almost a Chennai boy now. I spend a lot of time here at the MRF Pace Foundation,” he added.

These bowlers will be holding their nerves from under the hammer next week. But the South African experience and good show in the domestic T20 tourney is a bullet point on the CV.

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