Before joining the Rajasthan Royals this season,22-year-old medium-pacer Rahul Shukla bought an inverter to ensure uninterrupted power supply to his house in Dadhiya village,Badalapur 60 kilometres from Varanasi. He wanted his father to watch the Indian Premier League.
On Monday,father Shukla,Arti Prasad,watched his son make a breakthrough match in only his second match for his new IPL side. With Royals fielding an all-pace attack one that included Shaun Tait,S Sreesanth and Siddharth Trivedi Shukla provided his side with the early advantage when he reduced the Kolkata Knight Riders to 21 for two by the third over.
Knight Riders opener Manvinder Bisla was bowled by an in-cutter after he tried to make room,while No.3 batsman Jacques Kallis was seemingly surprised by Shuklas pace edging it to the wicket-keeper two balls later.
It was then that the senior Shukla,a farmer,realised that his son had made the right decision to defy him and pursue cricket. My father was dead against me playing cricket and he wanted me to study. At times when he got to know of my cricketing escapades he would beat me because he saw no future for me in the game, Shukla told The Indian Express on Tuesday. I recall sneaking out on the pretext of attending friends weddings and playing cricket only wearing a pair of slippers and pants.
To the aid of Shuklas cricketing dreams came his brother,who watched Rahul bowl in a local game and soon began believing in his potential. I made Jamshedpur my cricketing base as we had relatives there,who I could stay with, Shukla,who has played 11 first-class matches for Jharkhand,said. He also claimed that Mondays outing was far better than his maiden IPL game,in which he represented the Mumbai Indians last April. Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen hammered him for 31 runs in three overs and his IPL career seemed over till Rajasthan signed him on.
However,a little over a year ago things were not so hunky dory for the youngster. A lower back strain had relegated him to the sidelines for eight months. The stocky pacer then battled doubts over whether he would be able to bowl at 140 kmph-plus even as his statemate,friend and Under-19 bowling partner Varun Aaron made progress by playing one Test and four ODIs in the countrys colours.
While Aarons subsequent battles with injury have been well documented,Shukla too endured a long and difficult period to recovery before staging a comeback by playing one-dayers and Twenty20s for his state side Jharkhand last season.
When he was injured,Shukla spent time at the MRF Pace Foundation where M Senthilnathan,the former Tamil Nadu and India Under-19 batsman,ensured that he didnt lose heart. Says mentor Senthilnathan: He was despondent as he felt uncertain about his future. But we told him that there is no point in rushing back till he was fully fit and confident. I told him to begin his comeback with the mindset that he was starting from scratch.
So minor changes were made to Shuklas action at the pace foundation. Initially,he had a pronounced jump,would bowl from wide of the crease and angle it in. But keeping in mind the stress on the body the action was creating,Shukla was advised to go from a mixed action to a semi side-on one without compromising on pace. But was he always equipped with natural pace? Yes,says state-mate Aaron.
Aaron recalls the 2008-09 season of the Cooch Behar Trophy when he and Shukla opened the bowling for Jharkhand. We were both quick and were a handful during that season in which we were runners-up, Aaron said.
But Jharkhand State Cricket Association president Amitabh Choudhary believes that Shukla has not fulfilled his potential yet. Last year our state coach Tarak Sinha mentored him but he didnt make the kind of progress we expected, Choudhary said.
The state coach in question,Sinha,though,is confident that Shukla will develop into much better bowler if he can stay injury-free. Last season Rahul was coming back from injury so it took time for him to bowl with confidence, Sinha said. That confidence was there for all to see on Monday night.