The wait for being called up to the national squad can be seemingly never-ending and arduous for most. In Dhawal Kulkarni’s case it’s been nothing short of disparaging. For close to five years now, the Mumbai pacer has watched despondently from the sidelines as an array of youngsters have leap-frogged past him in India’s fast bowling pecking order.
The fast bowler though was satisfied having made the cut this time around — for the five-match ODI series and the Twenty20 International to be played in England.
“I never lost hope. I knew that if I kept at it, my chance would come. Those six years weren’t easy. It’s not easy to maintain your momentum and intensity level season after season,” he tells The Indian Express.
Having started his domestic career with a bang back in 2008, Kulkarni did get the selectors’ nod on a couple of occasions. The first came in 2009 for the tour to New Zealand, where he was picked fresh from having finished as the highest wicket-taker in his maiden Ranji season. But the youngster remained a passenger during the tour even as India went on to win a historic series. Then came the call-up to the ODI team last year to face the West Indies, one that ended in pain and agony.
“Last year against the West Indies, I got injured just after I was picked. It’s hard to describe how I felt. At this level there aren’t many who get second chances. And I do consider myself lucky. Life has come full-circle,” he adds.
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Kulkarni did his chances no harm with a bagful of wickets for India ‘A’ during their title-winning run in the recently concluded quadrangular tournament in Australia. He finished with 14 scalps and was instrumental in his team’s success. This on the back of seven prolific seasons with the ball in domestic cricket.
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Bowling pace on the unresponsive tracks that are on offer in domestic cricket can be a thankless job, especially when you’re away from the glare of the national selectors. But Kulkarni has wheeled away unyieldingly for Mumbai and has consistently featured among the highest wicket-takers each season.
Having started the 2013-14 season on a high in Visakhapatnam with an eye-catching spell against New Zealand ‘A’, who visited before West Indies ‘A’ last year, Kulkarni had claimed that his bowling had come of age and that he was ready to break into the big league. It’s a belief that has only been strengthened now, especially after having attained the selectors’ approval on Tuesday.
“Once you play six years of domestic cricket, you know your game well. Even if you can’t compare domestic and international cricket in terms of quality. The IPL helped in that sense, just like these India A tours have to know where you stand. I think I’m a better bowler than I was some five years ago,” he points out.