It was a wonderful feeling to get my maiden double ton against Punjab this season at my home ground, the Wankhede Stadium. It is the same venue where I made my Ranji Trophy debut last season. Back then it was a completely different experience.
My first match was against Jammu and Kashmir and I’d be lying if I tell you I was not nervous. I wasn’t sure if I would be playing until the day before the match. It was 6th December, my birthday when I was informed by Pravin Sir (Amre). It was a great birthday present that I was going to play my first Ranji Trophy match the next day. When he told me I was playing, I was prepared but at the same time very nervous. I didn’t know what to do so I started talking to seniors in the side on how I must approach the game.
When the D-day arrived, we were batting first and got off to a good start of about fifty runs. But then wickets then fell in a heap. It was like a procession. Suddenly we were 134-5 when I came in to bat. I was batting at No 7 and although I was nervous earlier, I was feeling more confident when I went out to bat.
I got to seven runs and got a bad decision. I wasn’t happy. It was not the kind of start I had expected. In the dressing room, I broke down. In the second innings, I played a bad shot and was caught in the slips.
It really was a rough start for me. I had never expected it because I was in good rhythm in the Buchi Babu tournament and the Kanga League. Getting out like that felt bad. I was getting into a negative mode. In the second match against Railways, I again got out early.
After that I decided that rather than getting out playing many deliveries and being negative, I will just go out there and hit from the first ball because the third match, against Uttar Pradesh in Kanpur, was a do- or-die game for me. Again we were in a spot at 53-5 when I came out to bat. The batsmen before me had got out to seam bowlers led by Praveen Kumar. They were all getting out to outside edges, getting nick off the ball. So I decided that instead of poking my bat outside off, I’d play my natural strokes and swing the bat, so that the ball would go above the slip cordon. That approach worked and I came up with a good score and the team won. I then took a deep breath and felt relaxed. From the next match, Pravin Sir told me to bat at No 3 and there on runs started coming in naturally.
I must confess the support from my teammates helped. In the initial phase when things were not going well, I would mostly speak to Abhishek Nayar. I was close to him and he was my room partner. He told me not to worry. He gave me confidence. Even when I missed catches early on he would tell me it happens. One tends to make mistakes in the first season and that I would learn.
During the match against Uttar Pradesh, Bravish Shetty was my room partner in Kanpur and I asked him, ‘What will I have to do to be the best?’ He told me ‘You have to beat the best.’ I kept those words in my mind and approached the next innings. There were many changes due to injuries and as new comers, we were all nervous. We motivated each other. We stuck around in difficult times and the result is beginning to show in the ongoing season.