Every day,for the last one month,Akshay Darekar adopts a strange exercise at the nets. Instead of running in to deliver the ball after marking his run-up,the Maharashtra tweaker first dunks the red cherry into a bucket of water. He then grips the soaked ball and proceeds to bowl.
This routine has ensured the presence of a small crowd that gathers to watch him at the Cadence nets in Mundhwa,but Darekar is unfazed with the extra attention. I am bowling with a wet ball in order to simulate the conditions in New Zealand. I have heard that conditions there are wet and damp and I need to be ready, he says. Bowling with a ball soaked in water has been difficult but Darekar says that he is slowly getting better and evolving new methods to deal with the reduced grip.
The 24-year-old has been selected for his second successive India A tour after a successful stint with Indias reserve team in the Caribbean. The left-arm spinner was one of the star performers the tour saw bagging 13 wickets from two unofficial Tests,one T20 and a single 50-over match. I was kind of expecting my name to figure in the list for the New Zealand A tour after the good show in the West Indies but nevertheless when my name was officially announced it was a big relief, he says.
Darekar,who was born in Mumbai and now plies his trade for Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy,admits that New Zealand will be a tough assignment. I know that wickets in New Zealand are not conducive to turn,but I am practising my variations and I am sure they will hold me in good stead, he says. For this,he has spent hours bowling at a single stump in order to improve his accuracy. Heavy rain at the beginning of the month prevented him from practising as much as he wanted,but he still found good use for the time. I could not practise my bowling on a regular basis for almost two weeks but that allowed me to work on strengthening my body for the long season ahead, he says.
Darekar was recently feted by the Maharashtra Cricket Association and was conferred with two awards. He was named outstanding performer for year 2011-12 from the senior Maharashtra side,and given the Sadu Shinde award for the best spinner. It was fantastic to receive the awards but I have to build on this encouragement and challenge for higher glories, says Darekar,who is aiming to become the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy in the coming season and also win the coveted India Test cap. My performance in the Caribbean has given me confidence and who knows,a good tour of New Zealand could just put me on the national selectors radar.
Darekar is excited about the tour to New Zealand for more than one reason. Daniel Vettori has been my role model for long now,and I have watched him very closely and modelled my arm ball on his, he says. I am really hoping to bump into him and take some tips on the finer points of spin bowling.