Akshay Wadkar - the Saha fan and killer instinct

Vidarbha wicketkeeper-batsman Wadkar shares how two Ranji Trophy titles under coach Chandrakant Pandit changed the mindset of youngsters in the side.

Two-time Ranji Trophy champion Akshay Wadkar at the IIT Chemplast Ground in Chennai.   -  WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA

Akshay Wadkar is not your usual stumper who tries to emulate M.S. Dhoni. He doesn’t even harbour dreams of playing club cricket outside India to sharpen his batting.

Vidarbha’s successive Ranji Trophy triumphs — the first being in his debut season in 2017-18 — helped him draw a roadmap where the priority is to polish skills against spinners on Indian wickets. Despite domestic cricket glory at the highest level, the Vidarbha cricketers have not broken into the national scene.

Wadkar feels he needs to focus better, and to start preparations for the new season, the 25-year-old flew to Chennai to shed the off-season rust by appearing in one match for local club, Jolly Rovers, in the TNCA Division I League.

Sportstar
 caught up with the Ranji champion to discuss how the domestic cricket glories changed the mindset of young Vidarbha players.

Excerpts:

How has life been after two back-to-back Ranji Trophy titles?

There has been a change in attitude definitely. We also think differently now. We can’t imagine of losing or drawing a match. Our coach Chandu Sir (Chandrakant Pandit) keeps saying that whenever ‘you take the field, the approach should be to kill the opponent’. The approach is instilled in our heads now. 

What is the off-season process of the coach? How often does he visit Nagpur [from Mumbai]?

In the off-season, he comes for two or three summer camps for 10 days each. He looks at the technical aspects of players in those camps. If a particular player had problems with say the outswinging delivery, he would train the batsman by making him face outswingers till he gets the shots correct. He may ask a player to keep playing the same shot for one hour against the same delivery. 

Pandit was a wicketkeeper too, does that put added pressure on you as he is a strict disciplinarian...

It is important to hold 90 overs a day. So he takes a lot of time to look into the fitness of the players in those camps. He is free and frank but discipline is a must for him. More than performance, he looks at the effort and discipline of a player.

For him, that is more important than how the player fares during a match. If I make a mistake, he will first explain where it went wrong. If I still fail to rectify my faults, he will scold a bit. But he never gives up. He doesn’t let you go easily.

What is your off-season routine like?

I look back at the mistakes I made, the process starts way before to eradicate them. What got me out is a big question, whether it was my fitness or a concentration lapse. At times, you fail to keep well and you fail to anticipate a ball behind the stumps. All these things give you an idea where you need to work on. So these questions keep coming back. I feel I need to focus a bit more, so I do a lot of yoga and meditation. 

Despite domestic cricket success, only Rajneesh Gurbani (medium fast bowler) got an India A call-up in the last two years. Is it a concern for the other players who are doing well for Vidarbha?


If I am playing cricket, it is a dream to play India and the IPL. We did well for two years and the good performers deserve to be in India A.

Akshay in numbers

First-classRuns50s100sBatting AverageHighest ScoreCatches Stumpings
     201,294  6   4       58.81 144 not out    44       9

 

There is nobody in the IPL too…

To play the IPL, one needs to do well in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy. If you keep winning the T20s, more players can go for trials. Ranji is day-cricket so they will prefer those players for red-ball cricket. Rajneesh was selected in India A accordingly. It all depends on the format and how the player fared. 

Most players like to travel outside India, mostly to the English county or clubs, but you like being here...
I had got an opportunity once. Wasim bhai (Jaffer) had a contact and he had asked me if I was interested to go to England, but I want to master the art of playing spin in the heat, in the Indian conditions. I never wanted to go to England. As a middle-order batsman, I have to face the spinners when playing here in the domestic season.

Who are your wicket-keeping role models?

I follow Wriddhiman Saha. His attitude behind the stumps is fantastic. He moves a lot while keeping. He dives really well. A player doesn’t think of injuries when in the game, so I have never thought of that too. His keeping prowess gives me the impression that if you have dived 100 times in the practice, doing it a couple of times in the game is not a problem at all.