Playing for India has always been a dream for Sijomon Joseph. Yet, when coach Rahul Dravid told him on the morning of February 13 that he would be playing in the first Youth Test against England at Nagpur, he was surprised.

He wasn’t expecting to play as there were two other spinners in the squad and the wicket, most people reckoned, was going to assist the seamers more.

However, he was determined to make good use of the opportunity.

Not only did he take seven wickets in the match, including six in the second innings, he also did well with the bat.

He scored an unbeaten 62 in the first innings and batted out some crucial overs in the second to ensure that India didn’t lose the match.

“Those two innings have made me more confident about my batting,” Sijomon told Sportstar over phone from Nagpur.

“Though I come lower down the order, I want to work on my batting too. In modern cricket, bowling alone may not be enough to get picked.”

He said he was pleased with the way he bowled in the England second innings. “I was nervous in the first innings,” he said.

“Dravid told me that I should make the batsmen play more rather than trying to do too much with the ball and that advice paid off.”

Though he wasn’t sure about his place in the playing eleven, he had felt that he might make it to the squad on the strength of his fine show for Kerala, which he captained in the domestic season.

“I had taken 41 wickets from five matches, with five five-wicket hauls,” said the 19-year-old from Kidangoor, near Pala. “So I thought I may be considered for the Youth Test squads.”

He wasn’t the only player from Kerala in the Indian team that played England; there were two others, batsmen Rohan Kunnummal and Daryl Ferrario, who scored a hundred. “It felt great that three of us could play for India in the same team,” said Sijomon, a product of the Kerala Cricket Association’s academy system. “No other State had as many players.”

This admirer of Daniel Vettori and Ravindra Jadeja had begun as a pace bowler, though.

“It was my coach at the academy, Jean K. John, who made me bowl spin,” he said. “I am also grateful to my other coaches Philip Mathew and Bijumon.”