Hard work pays off for pacer Aniket Choudhary

"It’s always a privilege to play with Virat (Kohli). But then, one must also realise that with money comes the responsibility," said Aniket after being picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL auction.

This is not the first time that Aniket Choudhary has been picked by an IPL franchise. In 2013, he was included in the Kings XI Punjab side as a local catchment player, but couldn’t make it to the final XI.   -  R. V. Moorthy

As the six-feet something gentleman walked into the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium in Pune on Monday morning, he got a pat on the back.

A little surprised, Aniket Choudhary looked back, only to find India captain Virat Kohli standing behind him. “Welcome to the club,” Virat told the youngster, who still couldn’t believe that far away in Bengaluru, Royal Challengers Banglaore had just picked him for a whopping Rs. 2 crore.

By then, the entire team was standing behind him, with everybody congratulating the youngster for a new beginning. “For a moment, I thought it was a joke. But when Virat came up to me and congratulated, I was convinced. Before the news broke out, I was at the nets, bowling to Virat,” an elated Aniket told Sportstar from Pune.

If a good deal at the Indian Premier League (IPL) came as a surprise for him, the young pacer from Rajasthan knows his real challenge has just begun. “It’s always a privilege to play with Virat. But then, one must also realise that with money comes the responsibility,” he said.

Touring with Team India helped

The pacer has been travelling with the Indian team for a while now. To ensure that the batsmen get proper bowling options, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had asked Aniket to be with the Indian team, so that he can also pick up a thing or two. “That has certainly helped me improve the performance. If you are regularly bowling to people like Virat, Ajinkya (Rahane), (Murali) Vijay, then it automatically prepares you for the big league,” Aniket said.

Perhaps, the result was evident as Aniket turned out to be one of the key bowlers for the India ‘A’ team, which took on Bangladesh in a practice game. “Earlier, there were a few issues with the bowling action. Then, there were injuries. But now, I am more confident,” he said.

Aniket, who holds an Engineering degree in Computer Science, however owes it to the MRF Pace Foundation’s M. Senthilnathan and Australian bowling great Glenn McGrath. “It was Senthil sir, who helped me rectify my errors at the MRF Pace Foundation. And, then with McGrath sir helping me correct the techniques, things went for the better,” Aniket said.

When legends helped

This, however, is not the first time that Aniket has been picked by an IPL franchise. In 2013, he was included in the Kings XI Punjab side as a local catchment player, but couldn’t make it to the final XI. “Time has taught me a lot. Over the years, I have realised that you need to be mentally tough to overcome the odds,” the youngster, who hails from Bikaner, said.

In his career, Aniket is fortunate enough to have been backed by three former cricketers. During his stint with the Rajasthan Cricket Academy, former Australia captain Greg Chappell was the first to give a call-up to the young bowler. Later, Aniket trained under the watchful eyes of former South Africa bowler Meyrick Pringle. “And then there was McGrath sir. Without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to come so far,” Aniket said.

Hard work paid off

Pringle was at the airport in Port Elizabeth, when he heard about his ward’s feat. Pringle, a member of South Africa’s 1992 World Cup team, tried calling up Aniket to congratulate him. “Though we couldn’t talk, I am happy to see him here. His hard work has paid off. It’s an unbelievably good news,” Pringle, who trained Aniket first at the Jaipur Cricket Academy, told Sportstar.

But even as the Rajasthan boy prepares to find his feet in the IPL bandwagon, he is a bit emotional about the fact that his first mentor and former Rajasthan selector, late Shamsher Singh, isn’t around. “He would have been the happiest man today. But then, that’s how life is…”

Life, truly, never fails to surprise!