Tushar Deshpande, Mumbai's tireless pacer with MS Dhoni's helping hand | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Tushar Deshpande, Mumbai's tireless pacer with MS Dhoni's helping hand

By, Mumbai
Feb 19, 2024 12:12 AM IST

His showing for India A, Mumbai -- in their run to the Ranji Trophy quarters -- and CSK keeps him on course for future India selection

For India’s recent success in international cricket, a lot of credit must go to its fast-bowling pool. In the last cycle, the captains had an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Along with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, they had quality bowlers like Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.

Chennai Super Kings' Tushar Deshpande(Chennai Super Kings Twitter) PREMIUM
Chennai Super Kings' Tushar Deshpande(Chennai Super Kings Twitter)

Bumrah and Shami are still bowling exceptionally well, but with the last three names fading away, India is looking to build a new pool of quality speedsters to support Bumrah and Co. Mohammed Siraj has arrived on the scene and done well, but the team needs more options to rotate and manage the workload, and keep them sharp at the same time so that the standard does not drop. Apart from India A, Ranji Trophy acts as the supply line for the Test side.

As the business end of Ranji Trophy, India's premier domestic tournament, begins this week, the selectors will be scouting for pace options.

One of the pacers being tried out is Tushar Deshpande, having been picked in the India A team for the last two series.

White ball or red ball, the Mumbai pacer is having a good domestic season. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy tournament, he was the highest wicket-taker (16 wickets in 8 games) for Mumbai (joint 4th in India), in the 50 overs Vijay Hazare Trophy he took 16 wickets in six games. As Mumbai gear up for the knockouts, Deshpande has a perfect platform to make his case.

For the quarter-finals starting on Friday, he has warmed up nicely. Missing the first five rounds due to India A duties, in his first game of the season, against Chhattisgarh a week ago, he bowled a lion-hearted spell (26.1-4-121-5) to help clinch the first innings lead by one run. With captain Amandeep Khare scoring a stubborn 143, Chhattisgarh were poised to take the lead while chasing 351 on a batting pitch.

Deshpande though was relentless, claiming four of the last five wickets and trapping Khare in front to dismiss Chhattisgarh for 350. It was proof of how he is becoming good at playing under pressure. In IPL, his temperament was tested in crunch situations during Chennai Super Kings’ winning run.

“You gain confidence from such a spell. At the same time, there’s satisfaction that I delivered in a crunch situation. I did it in IPL as well, and this season for Mumbai in white-ball tournaments also I am bowling the difficult overs. I want to carry this confidence forward," says Deshpande, who played his part in Mumbai’s dominating win over Assam as well with three wickets.

“I always back myself in crunch situations, I remain confident that I can deliver for my team. That has been my attitude always. I never bowl defensively, I bowl for wickets," says the pacer who has 90 wickets in 33 first-class games.

The 28-year-old Deshpande made his first-class debut in 2016, picked for Mumbai mainly for his sharp pace. The consistency and tactical awareness were however missing. The 2022-23 season saw a transformed bowler. The way he bowled for Mumbai and CSK caught the eye. After a haul of 23 wickets in six Ranji games, he was a revelation in IPL with 21 wickets in 16 games. He has continued that good work this season.

What has been impressive is that he has been the team’s workhorse, bowling tireless spells. “After bowling the long spells to get a five or a six-wicket haul gives a different satisfaction. Against Chhattisgarh, I bowled a total of 26 overs with a spell of seven on the trot. The regular workload for a four-day match is 30 overs minimum,” says Deshpande, who can clock 140kph plus.

Fast bowlers would want to maintain high speeds with short bursts and captains help them do that. But Deshpande looks forward to the extra workload.

“I don’t moderate my speed; the only thing I focus on is to bowl accurately at the same speed and use an odd bouncer."

The Mumbai pacer owes the transformation to two factors -- improved fitness and confidence gained in playing under MS Dhoni. “The changes I brought about in my fitness, from there I feel there was an improvement. I am not a bowler who will bowl at 120-125. If I have to bowl 140-plus, what fitness will I need, that my strength and conditioning coach Vidhi Sanghvi explained to me. Earlier I was bulky, now I have become a lot leaner.

“CSK backed me to the fullest, that was the change that got me the recognition... (I understood) what it means to perform and be there at the highest level,” says Deshpande.

Taking the last step between domestic and international cricket is the toughest. "What's in my hands is to prepare and be ready for that level when the opportunity comes. I feel that the opportunity is not long in coming because whatever opportunities I have got, be it first-class or IPL, I have given my best and have always been among the wickets. I feel this is my time and I am ready for it. Just waiting for the opportunity and whatever challenges come (with it).”

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