By Kartik Venu
Bouncers, yorkers, slower balls — all met the same fate. A full range of strokes was on display as 165 runs — 56 in fours and with two sixes for good measure — came off Madhav Kaushik’s blade in a match between Rajnigandha CC and Pusa Youngsters at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.
The Rajnigandha opener made quick work of the opposition bowlers. In his best season yet, Kaushik has 615 runs from eight innings, including three centuries.
Asked about barnstorming his season, Kaushik gives the question some thought before attributing his success to his pre-match preparation. Probed further, he says, “I try to visualize different scenarios in a match, and focus on my batting in response to those. Also, I listen to inspirational music.”
Kaushik’s response, however, does not reveal much of his method. The 16-year-old practices almost daily at two academies, working through the blistering afternoon heat. His hour-long fitness routine involves a mix of running, biking and swimming, and he swears by the skipping rope, which he terms an essential method of improving a batsman’s footwork. He also regularly clocks an hour of air-batting or ‘shadow practice’.
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Growing up in Krishna Nagar, Madhav recollects frequent scoldings from his neighbours with balls often landing in neighbour’s houses. Now — scoldings forgotten — the memories bring a wry smile to his face.
His initiation into cricket began in his backyard, learning the basics from his father. “I developed a love for the game as a child, watching my father play club cricket. He was my first coach and very supportive,” he says. Kaushik has taken on a similar role, offering tips to his 12-year-old brother, who is equally keen on the game.
Kaushik is a product of Sonnet Cricket Club, learning under Tarak Sinha, famous for mentoring former India players Ashish Nehra and Aakash Chopra. ‘Tarak Sir’, as he calls him, employs a laid-back coaching style, keeping things simple. “Sir slightly changed my foot position, as it was coming across too much, making me an lbw candidate.” Having improved improved his skills considerably, he ahs represent Delhi Under-14s and Under-16, as well as captaining his school, Modern School, U-16 side.
Though Kaushik may have graduated to higher honours, his father a trusted source of opinion. “I still seek my dad’s advice on the mental aspects of batting,” he says. Madhav’s father, a junior India football player, is proud of his son and admits that he never pressures him to perform well, instead telling him to focus on the love of playing the game.
Kaushik animatedly describes pointers he picked up from players’ autobiographies — including Ponting, Yuvraj and Tendulkar.
The dedication that sees him practice well into the extra hour works well for his game has its downside too. Madhav laments not having enough time to spend with his friends and family. Even so, he has no regrets and is one of the few at school not to use Facebook, something that, he says, eats into his time.
Kaushik is guarded about his academic performance, mischievously saying: “It depends on who you ask”.
MUSIC, THE ELIXIR
Kaushik’s other great love is music. His demeanour softens as he talks and the otherwise intense expression relaxes into a smile. His genre of choice is classic rock, and listens to bands from Led Zeppelin to David Bowie.
This is the music he grew up listening to, Kaushik says. He writes his own music, something he began doing four years ago to take his mind of cricket. Off the field, he spends time singing and playing the guitar, even sneaking in a few performances.
He has taken to singing in a school band ‘Blades’. “We write original songs, not covers,” he says, with an emphasis on ‘original’.
Much like his taste in music, Kaushik plans to chart his own path in cricket. After his breakthrough season, his next goal is to break into the Delhi U-19 side. “I have worked hard and will continue to do so. I am optimistic about my chances this year,” he says with an air of confidence.
Kaushik keeps it simple when asked if he has a backup plan in place. “As of now, there is no plan B. Think of it as do or die,” he says.
Venu is an intern with The Indian Express