The return of Kamlesh Nagarkoti

India U-19 World Cup winner Nagarkoti reveals how he stayed connected to speed while nursing the back injury at the NCA in Bengaluru.

Kamlesh Nagarkoti is making a comeback after a long injury layoff.   -  Getty Images

Just two days ago, the International Cricket Council announced the U-19 World Cup 2020 schedule. “It is going to be two years already. The time I spent in my recovery made me tougher. There was not much to change skill-wise,” says Kamlesh Nagarkoti, the fast bowler who clocked at an excess of 140 kmph in the last edition.

India emerged champion, and Nagarkoti was one of the stars discovered alongside Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and Anukul Roy.

Ever since that final against Australia on February 3, the Rajasthan speedster appeared in only two List A games. A fractured foot took him out of his maiden IPL and later, a recurring back injury paused his career for 19 months.

Ever since that Under-19 World Cup final against Australia on February 3, the Rajasthan speedster has appeared in only two List A games.   -  PTI

 

But the wait is over. He will be joining the Indian team camp in Bengaluru on November 6 for the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup — his comeback tournament that starts in Bangladesh a week after.

It is not easy for a 19-year-old to sit in his hotel room while his team-mates go on to wear India and IPL jerseys. Nagarkoti had his moments of frustration while nursing his injury at the National Cricket Academy. “I wasn’t ready for matches and I saw all my friends and colleagues were playing games. I was disappointed I couldn’t play with them. It hurt that I wasn’t able to go to the ground,” he tells Sportstar.

To maintain a sane head, Nagarkoti would venture out to watch practice matches. “Whenever I had the opportunity to watch a game at a stadium, I would go. How long can you stay inside a room? It is essential to breathe some fresh air. I went for quite a few practice games that happened at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Since I wasn’t playing for long, I loved watching the action.”

Kolkata Knight Riders, Kamlesh Nagarkoti's IPL franchise, has backed him to the hilt.   -  [email protected] Knight Riders

 

Kolkata Knight Riders, his IPL franchise, backed him to the hilt. It even retained the youngster for the next season before the back injury resurfaced. “They also invited me for their game against Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2019 here.”

He felt good seeing bowlers clocking high speeds. “Looking at that, I felt that I can do it too. I had done it in the U-19 World Cup. It motivated me to focus more on my fitness. The idea is to do things that you can control. It is not that if I clock 145 kmph today, I will have to aim for 150 next. You have to maintain your speed, fitness and diet, everything together, to avoid problems in future.”

Minor change

To remain in the zone, Nagarkoti would also watch his own videos in his room. “I would keep watching my bowling action. When you go to the ground after a long gap, you tend to forget a few things,” he says.

There is a “minor” change in the action. “It has been fine-tuned a little bit. My action had a bit of side arm, it became a little front on.”

Nagarkoti will be available for selection in the Ranji Trophy but he understands the importance of performance to earn his due. “I don’t know whether I will be picked. I am up for any opportunities that come calling. Two India pacers (Deepak Chahar and Khaleel Ahmed) are part of the side and they are doing well. I will earn a call-up only if I perform.”

“It will be great if I can play a few practice matches, Challenger Trophy or selection matches. I just want to perform.”

Nagarkoti is the first Rajasthan bowler to take a hat-trick in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. That still being a talking point may swing it in his favour. There is, of course, the U-19 World Cup trophy that proves his potential.