It won’t be wrong to say that Mumbai pacer Dhawal Kulkarni’s India career hasn’t gone according to plan. Since he was first called up for the 2009 New Zealand tour as a 20-year-old, just six months after making his first-class debut, Kulkarni has played just eight ODIs.
Kulkarni, 27, has been one of Mumbai’s most consistent performers in Ranji Trophy. But it was his season with Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League, claiming 18 wickets in 14 games, which earned him selection in the second-string India side which will play three ODIs and three T20Is in Zimbabwe, starting this weekend.
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In fact, Kulkarni’s performances, which included a four-wicket haul that almost laid low eventual finalists Royal Challengers Bangalore in Qualifier 1, earned him praise from AB de Villiers. Pakistan pace legend Wasim Akram picked him in his dream XI from the tournament.
“The difference (this season) was just the number of wickets I got. I’ve been consistent throughout. It’s just that the hard work I put in for my bowling paid off,” Kulkarni said.
“Wherever you go, and wherever you play, you have to stick to basics and back your stock ball. My stock ball is to hit the right line and length and that’s what I kept doing with the new ball. There has been a lot of practice behind that, and that’s what helped me in this IPL.”
While it is easy to dismiss the challenge Zimbabwe pose, he said: “You have to keep your mind clear and not underestimate any opposition, and perform no matter what the opposition is.”
Kulkarni will be tasked with leading India’s bowling attack in Zimbabwe, a job he has performed with aplomb for Lions. He pointed out that while the team for the tour to Zimbabwe seems low on experience, the players were seasoned performers on the domestic circuit.
“I won’t say the team is inexperienced, this is a good team. There are a few who have played a lot of domestic cricket. This experience will hold them in good stead at the international level. Players have performed well in the IPL and the confidence will be high.”