Ranji Trophy: Palkar rediscovers his mojo as IT professional

‘Quitting the game was tough but getting back was tougher,' says Maharashtra batsman Palkar.

The lanky right-arm pacer and a handy lower-order batsman earned his second Ranji cap for Maharashtra against Mumbai and impressed with the ball, taking key wickets including Suryakumar Yadav’s.   -  vivek bendre

He started off with the prestigious National Cricket Club in Mumbai which has produced stalwarts like Wasim Jaffer. He played junior cricket for Mumbai, rubbing shoulders with some of Mumbai regulars like Suryakumar Yadav.

But had it not been for an employer like IT giant Infosys and a supportive wife, who pushed him to pursue cricket, Ashay Palkar would have ended up as just another promising cricketer who preferred a career in finance over his passion.

Instead, less than three years since returning to the game, albeit in a different city, Palkar made his first-class debut last month.

Incidentally, the lanky right-arm pacer and a handy lower-order batsman earned his second Ranji cap for Maharashtra against Mumbai and impressed with the ball, taking key wickets including Yadav’s.

'Getting back was tougher'

Palkar last featured for Mumbai Under-22 in 2010-11 and wasn’t noticed by the selectors for the next two years. As a result, he turned his focus to academics and completed his MBA (Finance) at a reputed institution.

“Once I started my MBA in 2012, I completely stopped playing cricket. It was only after I was placed in Infosys did I think of returning to the game. Thankfully for me, our campus has a proper cricket ground and a fitness centre, so I started rolling arm in corporate tournaments.

"That is when I realised quitting the game was tough but getting back was tougher,” Palkar said after starring for Maharashtra against Mumbai, which concluded at the Gahunje stadium on Sunday.

Biggest motivator

Pushed by his sports physiotherapist wife Pranjali, Palkar started playing regularly to regain fitness. “When I shifted to Pune and joined Infosys, I weighed 95 kilos, but Pranjali was the biggest motivator for me. She believed I had a lot of cricket left in me and pushed me to rediscover myself through cricket.

"It helped so much that I have lost 20 kilos in the last two-three years,” Palkar said, adding that Pranjali looks after his training, fitness and diet programmes.

After regaining his mojo, Palkar started representing Ambitious Club in Pune and after consistent outings in limited local tournaments, the 29-year-old was selected first for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and now Ranji Trophy.

A different cricketer

Palkar admitted that his life as an SAP analyst has helped him immensely on the field over the last couple of years. “The academics and professional stint has sharpened my mind, it’s broadened my thinking,” he said.

“I was a different cricketer than what I was when I came back. Earlier I used to take a lot of pressure of performing and getting selected, now I just enjoy the process of doing all the drills and going out and giving my best.”

Ever since his selection for Maharashtra in September, Palkar has been on unpaid leave at his IT firm and donning the hat of a professional cricketer. But unlike most domestic cricketers who virtually have nothing to fall back on after the game, Palkar will, at the end of the season, replace his whites with the formals and resume his eight-hour number-crunching job.