As recently as 39 days ago, Karun Nair was just another kid with a heavy cricket kit and lightheaded cricketing ambitions. He hadn’t yet played a first-class match. And having turned 22 in the first week of December, Nair knew time was slipping by. “I was desperate to play for Karnataka. But dreams don’t stop there,” he says, a bit shy, a bit sure. “I imagined all kind of things, scoring runs and proving my worth, maybe even hitting a century. And I always, always, wanted to play in a Ranji final.”
In precisely that order and in the space of just a month — not more, not less — those dreams began materialising. First came the debut, in place of an injured Robin Uthappa during the group stages. In the middle of December, opener Nair got his chance to represent Karnataka as a number six batsman against Punjab in Hubli.
By the time he played Punjab again, in just his fifth Ranji game during the ongoing semifinals here in Mohali, he had scored three top-order centuries on the trot — the third of which has all but booked his side a place in the final. For the first time in four years.
On Tuesday, the fourth day of this severely weather-affected game (the first day was rained out and today saw just 36 overs being bowled due to poor light), Nair stretched his overnight score from 107 to 151*, his highest first-class score.
But despite batting for a better part of two days and gaining a 177-run first innings lead over Punjab, Nair claims that neither he nor Karnataka are done yet. “Weather permitting, our aim is to bat out the fifth day. And hopefully by the end of it, I will know what it feels like to score a double hundred,” he says.
Imagine that, a double hundred for a boy who is yet to settle for a fifty in his just-starting-but-already-flourishing Ranji career. “It is hard to believe, I know. But when you’re not getting runs, you realise just how valuable these hundreds are. So I refuse to take it easy after scoring a 50,” Nair says. But having played just eight innings and already having scored three centuries, when did he ever have the time to go through a lean patch? He listens to the query and delivers his life story.
“Until I turned 19, I hadn’t once converted a start to three figures in any level of age-group cricket. No hundreds, but plenty of fifties, sixties and seventies. In fact, when I was 14, I scored some six seventies on the go,” reveals Nair. Then continued…