Keeping it simple

Robin Bist... in competition with himself.-K. PICHUMANI

Robin Bist is tough on himself yet confident and, importantly, determined to go back to the drawing board to sharpen his game. Standing at about five-foot, five inches, the Rajasthan batsman responds to posers with much earnestness. By Arun Venugopal.

Robin Bist is sure he “won’t be able to sleep tonight.” This reaction comes barely an hour after his team Central Zone is bested by East Zone in the Duleep Trophy final at Chennai. What gnaws at his gut is his failure to make a contribution in the match that matters.

“I am very disappointed that I got out and my team didn’t win. But I will make sure that the next time I go out to bat, I will make it hard for myself as well as the opponent,” he declares.

That’s pretty much Bist to a tee: tough on himself yet confident and, importantly, determined to go back to the drawing board to sharpen his game. Standing at about five-foot, five inches, the Rajasthan batsman responds to posers with much earnestness. The Delhi-born Bist’s frame and fizzing intensity reminds one of Gautam Gambhir, who also hails from the country’s capital.

Having breached the 1000-run mark to finish as the leading scorer in last year’s Ranji Trophy (1034), Bist asserts he’s under no pressure to emulate or better the feat. “I am not thinking about maintaining it (form). I will just try to be myself and perform well.”

Spelling out his agenda, he talks about “deleting” stuff so as to not veer away from the present moment. “I just watch the ball. I am thinking neither about the future nor the past. I delete every ball I face and prepare for the next delivery. This is the best part of what I am doing right now.”

The “best part” also includes an improved back-foot play. “Initially, I wasn’t a very good back-foot player. Now, I try to keep my body right behind the ball.” Forming a vital part of his pre-match routine is studying the pitch.

“I read wickets pretty well. Having played more than 40 (first-class) matches, I know how wickets in India behave. My game-plan changes (depending on the pitch) but only slightly,” says Bist, who turned 25 on November 2.

We get the feeling his batting is built on introspection and rigorous planning but Bist clarifies. “I don’t do much research. I just work hard to make sure I rectify my mistakes going into a match. My thinking process should be simple because cricket’s a very simple game. You don’t have to make it look like a puzzle. Whenever you keep it simple, things go well.”

Having represented Delhi in age-group cricket, the middle-order bat made the shift to Rajasthan, making his first-class debut in 2007. With Rajasthan, for long, treated as the country cousin to stronger sides, was there apprehension about the switch? “Playing for Delhi during my younger days was an honour. When I moved to Rajasthan, I learnt a lot about struggle and rising above challenges. Yes, we know we are tagged underdogs but we like it. There was only one thing in my mind: to play cricket. So playing for Delhi or Mumbai or Rajasthan doesn’t make a difference. ”

The Rajasthan set-up has, clearly, contributed to his evolution into a hardened professional. “I have learnt from the Rajasthan team that you never say die. The way we performed last year… we lost first innings lead in four (five) matches but from the fifth (sixth) match we bounced back and took the first-innings lead from bigger teams.”

He says the team’s back -to-back Ranji Trophy success is an outcome of everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. “We have clicked together. The three professionals in the side (skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Aakash Chopra, and Rashmi Ranjan Parida) have delivered and helped us become better cricketers and better human beings. Local players like Vineet (Saxena) and (Ashok) Menaria were among the runs too. And we share a great rapport; we know everything about one another.”

Beginning the season with a 117 n.o. & 67 in the Irani Trophy match, Bist is intent on scoring “tons and tons (of) runs.” “I have to treat each innings as my last game”.

A lover of sports-related biographies and autobiographies, his plans for the season revolve around remaining calm and confident. “Specific goals and specific targets will make you a conscious person, I guess. I love this game and can do anything for it.”