Everyone can be a top cricketer, you have to just set certain processes in place. This is what Karun Nair, who made history at the Chepauk, sailing past a record score of 300 against England today, shared with HT Education a few months ago.
When HT Education connected with the newest star in India’s test cricket horizon in June this year, Nair had already hit the headlines. In his debut season in first class cricket, Karnataka batsman Nair helped his side win the Ranji and Irani trophies, hitting centuries in three successive Ranji matches. The last big hit, a sixer, got Karnataka the Ranji title after15 years. He forayed into IPL in 2014 after joining the Royals. This year, Delhi Daredevils signed him on for Rs 4crore – a huge jump from his base price of Rs10 lakh.
Just in his twenties, Nair seems to be surprisingly mature instead of the giddy-headed young cricketer you expected. Millions of young men (and women, mind you) dream of playing cricket and here he is, already a part of the big league. What does he think got him there? Talent or hard work? Nair truly believes in hard work - be these training sessions, gym or cricket practice sessions. “I honestly believe that talent and hard work go hand in hand ... Even though one’s talented, you need to put in the hard yards, be it the training sessions, gyms or practice sessions.”
So to get noticed, to make it to Ranji and Irani levels, one has to keep in mind “the processes.” Nair understood very early in his career that he could not compromise his routines. “Be it Ranji trophy or when I started playing for my club, I used to hit cricket balls for 30 to 40 hours every week, run for 10 to 12 hours every week and gym for an equal number of hours every week. Being noticed is not something that you can control but you can set a process in place which more often than not will not let you go unnoticed.”
It has been a roller coaster ride – a 1 and 8 with Rajasthan Royals, and a string of high scores; stellar performances in Ranji and Irani matches; a winning six that got the Ranji trophy to Karnataka after a long gap. How has he coped? It hasn’t been difficult as “playing big matches have been a passion.” When he was younger he used to “visualise certain things.” That’s becoming a reality now. Achieving certain milestones both for the team and personally “feels great”. After playing for Karnataka, Rajasthan Royals and now Delhi Daredevils he feels he belongs here. How was it the first time? A state level match, walking up to the crease, facing up to a vicious bowler and noisy crowds? Was it difficult to concentrate? It was a challenge but he “absolutely loved it” because it was a dream-come-true moment. “Every second was a joy.” And he did manage to remember his coach’s advice and focus on each and every delivery.
Being selected for Delhi Daredevils was overwhelming and the opportunity of learning from one of the greats in world cricket (Rahul Bhai, Dravid to the rest of us) made it even more exciting. Nair feels good to be appreciated, which motivates him to perform to the best of his abilities for the team. At the same time, he does not forget that he has to be “focused on my long term goal of playing for India.”
Can anyone become a cricketer? What sort of a mindset should one have to play and become successful in this game? Most importantly, anyone who isn’t ready to back off from putting in those extra hours, can most definitely become a cricketer.
Off the cricketing arena, Nair chills out playing video games, reading and hanging out with friends. He enjoys driving around the outskirts of Bangalore as well. Studies help him switch off from the game. What is life like during IPL matches? Does he party? So far the IPLs have been a great experience and he has made some “great friends in (Quinton) de Cock, (Carlos) Brathwaite, (Chris) Morris and Sam Billings.” He generally tends to stay away from parties and tries to stay focused on overcoming challenges in the field.
Nair also prefers to gives the question on making money “a pass”, but says he believes that both spending and saving are important. “My manager insists on saving a certain percentage of the earnings, investing a certain percentage and spending the rest on shopping.”
Pretty sensible isn’t it, for someone so young? But that’s the best thing about cricket, he insists, “It keeps one always grounded no matter what happens.”