Ravi Kumar: No IPL, no problem; focus is on Ranji Trophy

Eighteen-year-old Ravi is yet to make his first-class debut, and is not eligible for IPL, but the U-19 World Cup winner has his eyes on Ranji Trophy.

Ravi Kumar celebrates the wicket of Jacob Bethell of England in the World Cup final.   -  PTI

U-19 World Cup star Ravi Kumar’s phone did not stop buzzing ever since he landed in India. And the homecoming from the distant Caribbean islands was nothing short of a sweet dream despite jet lag. A felicitation ceremony in the presence of the senior cricket team brought joy to the youngster and his teammates in Ahmedabad.

He was on another flight in 24 hours. He joined the Bengal Ranji Trophy team in Bhubaneswar for the domestic red-ball tournament starting February 17.

In a chat with Sportstar, the left-arm pacer who picked up 10 wickets in six appearances, including a four-for in the final where India beat England, reflects on the triumph.

Big tournaments offer competitive bowling wickets. It often brings out the best in a bowler. What were your learnings?

The Asia Cup victory gave us confidence. It was almost like a World Cup but yes, among cricketers from the continent. There is a difference in the gameplay between Asian players and the players from the SENA countries. They play more attacking cricket than the Asians. So I got an idea on how to bowl to them. There was good team-bonding in the presence of our coaches and V.V.S. Laxman sir (Director of Cricket, National Cricket Academy). They spoke to us on the mindset and attitude, which does not only apply to the tournament but life in general.

You were lethal in the knockout stages with nine wickets in three games. How did you overcome the pressure, if there was any?

I had a positive mindset. I know if I do well, it will be good for the team. I don't look at pressure as pressure, I see it as an opportunity. I always try for a breakthrough with the new ball, and ensure the opponent is dismissed for a low total. This was my personal mindset in the U-19 World Cup.

Being a left-arm pacer has an added advantage of creating angles to the right-hander. How much did Sairaj Bahutule fine-tune you?

We did not have much time for practice before the World Cup. There were a couple of warm-up games. Sairaj sir trained us individually on specific areas. He spent a lot of time with all of us on the field and also in the meetings. He had a huge role to play. Whenever he identified problems, he rectified it in the training sessions. Most of the improvement is due to him.

How much does the Ranji Trophy mean to you?

Everyone wants to play for India. And there is a process to get there. The U-19 World Cup was one, and the Ranji Trophy is huge. My whole focus is on Ranji because I know if I do well, I will go ahead and so will my team. I have to prepare for the white to red-ball transition. 

You will be working with Arun Lal, Saurasish Lahiri and Shib Shankar Paul, all former Bengal stars. How do you look at that?

Shib Shankar Paul was my coach in U-19 Bengal, so we have had a lot of conversations. I feel lucky to have so many senior players as coaches. I am excited to learn and improve under them. Everyone will have something or the other to offer. There is also Manoj Tiwary, who played for India. 

How much do you owe to Kolkata for your rise? You were born here, but your family had moved to Aligarh. This must be a special return.

The whole thing happened because of this city. Though my coach, Arvind Bharadwaj is from Aligarh, my career would not have taken off if I had not moved back to Kolkata. Arvind sir taught me bowling and Kolkata supported me.I played for Howrah Union for two years and then, Ballygunge. The Cricket Association of Bengal really backed me, especially Avishek Dalmiya. 

Are you thinking about the IPL yet?

This year I won't be able to play. I am not eligible. I had filled the form but there are a lot of U-19 players who are not eligible since they are 18, and have not made their first-class debut. By the time I play my debut game for Bengal, the auctions will be over. 

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