Akshdeep Nath started his first-class career around India internationals Mohammad Kaif, R.P. Singh and Suresh Raina in the Uttar Pradesh domestic setup in 2011.
After UP’s dismal Vijay Hazare Trophy campaign in the 2018-19 domestic season under Raina — with only one win in eight games — Nath was given the captaincy job for the Ranji Trophy.
The 25-year-old turned the tide as the side is all set to flex its muscles against Saurashtra in the quarterfinal at home starting January 15.
READ: 'We're confident of winning quarters'
Ahead of the big game, Nath spoke to Sportstar on the season that brought the A game out of him, as batsman and a leader.
Q) You became the captain and the whole story changed for UP. How do you reflect on the season at this stage?
A) It is going great for us as a team. Somewhere down the line, I knew we can achieve what we did. It has been a team effort.
Q) You have hammered three centuries – 194 against Goa, 159 against Odisha and 106 against Tripura - this season. Did you make any technical changes to your batting?
A) After a point of time, it is only about the mindset. Technically, you can’t do much after a point. You need to back your strength and that’s the way you progress. It is more about working on the areas where I was getting out earlier.
Q) You were with Kings XI in the IPL last season. Ravichandran Ashwin is known to be tactical captain, did you borrow ideas from him?
A) I used to observe how he used to challenge the opponent, control the pace of the game and how he managed the players. Those things really helped a lot when I started leading my state.
Q) After a long time, UP has a chance to go all the way...
A) We have to stick to what we have been doing instead of taking it as a quarterfinal and hyping things. Sticking to basics got us to this stage.
Q) Any injury concerns or pull outs?
A) Raina is out for rehab due to an injury [knee]. He wasn’t there in the last game as well. Shivam Mavi was injured for a while, but he has started training. He is likely to feature in the quarterfinal. If Raina recovers fast, he can hopefully be a part of the semifinal if we get there.
Q) How was the experience of leading Raina?
A) He has been very supportive from day one. As for leading the team, the issue was that he wasn’t available for the whole season. The captains kept changing. The initial plan was to have a captain who could stay for the whole season. He has helped me a lot being a former captain, guided me through tough situations and always told me what to do and what not.
Q) Any thoughts on the opponent, Saurashtra?
A) They are a good side. And now that Cheteshwar Pujara is playing, he will be a prized scalp. Their bowling attack is also pretty good with Jaydev Unadkat leading the charge.