Karun Nair gives an impression of Ajinkya Rahane of 2011 and 2012. Not just in terms of prolific scores with the willow in domestic cricket but also in dealing with uncertainties surrounding a maiden opportunity to gain India's Test cap.
Three weeks ago, a string of injuries to frontline batsmen meant Nair had to leave Karnataka’s pre-season preparations and join the India change room ahead of the third Test against New Zealand. He was back with his State squad just in time for its season-opener against Jharkhand. And last week, he was also elevated as captain of the second-most-successful team in the Ranji Trophy team, after Vinay Kumar was sidelined due to a calf injury.
How does the youngster, six months shy of turning 25, handle the uncertainty over switching sides and yet keep himself composed?
“It’s quite hard because you’re working hard to ultimately get there. Once you get there, you want to stay there,” Nair says. “You don’t want to be coming back and going through the grind again. It is hard, but having said that, you have to push for your place and keep scoring runs. I’m only looking forward to doing that, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Nair, who made his India debut during the limited-overs series in Zimbabwe earlier in the year, has stressed on his 'eagerness' to play for India in all formats. But having been considered as a standby and having not yet got a breakthrough, doesn’t the eagerness translate into frustration at times?
“It’s again hard. There are times when you get frustrated, and then there are times when you get eager,” Nair admits. “It just depends on how well you can deal with it. Like I said, as long as you get runs on the board, nothing else should matter.”
Many youngsters who go through such phases tend to buckle under pressure, but those who have survived the phase have tended to play longer at the highest stage.
Many in the Indian cricket fraternity feel Nair belongs to the latter category. But his run of scores during India A's recent tour to Australia suggests otherwise. Barring an innings of 72, Nair failed to make any substantial contribution to either in the quadrangular one-day series or in the two four-day games against the hosts. The confident and thinking nature of Nair, the cricketer, comes to the fore when he looks back on the seven weeks in Australia.
“I was batting really well. It’s just that I was getting out in the twenties which was frustrating for me, but I wasn’t playing badly. It was just the kind of series where you’re playing well but aren’t getting the runs that you want to get,” he says.
“But having said that, I’ve become a better player playing there for one-and-a-half months. I think I’ve improved a lot mentally and batting-wise. That kind of helped me grow as a person as well, because I’d to deal with staying away for 50 days, as well as getting frustrated at getting starts and not converting. If I look back, I’ve become a better player and person. So, even if I didn’t get runs, that tour really helped me.”
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