Kaushal Singh has taken the route most young cricketers who don’t belong to one of the nerve centres of the game have to at some point in time if they are serious about the sport. Kaushal was born in Palamu, a district known to be a hotbed of naxals and one of the more backward areas which has received central grants over the years. A young Kaushal decided to move to Ranchi to pursue his cricket dreams. Palamu had no cricket training facilities and it came as a blessing when his father, a government servant was transferred to the state capital.
“In the selection trial match I made 2 and 0,” Kaushal recalls. “It was the first time I was facing a leather ball. Till then I had played all my cricket with the tennis ball.”
However, it was during these tennis ball cricket games, usually played in the 10-over a side format, that Kaushal developed his attacking stroke-play. “You don’t have time to get your eye in. So you had to play shots right from the time you walk in to bat.”
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Ask him about one of his memorable knocks from his early days and 19-year-old Kaushal picks a tennis ball game in which he made 230 in 88 balls. This conversation is happening after Kaushal has scored his maiden century in First-Class cricket — one of his more sedate innings, an unbeaten 121 off 178 deliveries against Maharashtra on Day Two of the Group B match at the Karnail Singh Stadium. Kaushal hit 14 fours, including one to bring up his century, and three sixes. But during his 289 minute stay at the wicket, he showed the patience and skill required to play the four-day game.
While he still enjoys a game or two of tennis-ball cricket but on Friday reined in his aggression to an extent and played a vital role in Jharkhand taking the first innings lead against Maharashtra. “If I feel that there is a ball to be hit, I will hit it irrespective of the score I am on. This is my third season of Ranji Trophy (15 first-class games) and with each match I am gaining experience and learning how to build an innings,” Kaushal said.
He added 57 with Virat Singh for the sixth wicket, 77 with a watchful Shahbaz Nadeem and 51 with captain Varun Aaron, who also remained unbeaten at stumps.
At the end of the day’s play, Kaushal walked out with Mahendra Singh Dhoni before the others joined them for a game of football. Kaushal, like the many young cricketers from the state, also grew up idolizing MSD. On the day he scored his maiden first-class century, Kaushal couldn’t have hoped for a better scenario. Dhoni being present in the Jharkhand dressing room.
Brief scores: Maharashtra 210 in 71.1 overs vs Jharkhand 293/7 in 99 overs.