SLIDING LIKE A VINE

Rajasthan pacer Nathu Singh is only concerned about bettering his bowling and learning English, lessons of which he is taking from Martin Guptill

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Nathu Singh unleashing himself during the 10th edition of IPL.

The dark brown highlighted pompadour hairstyle he got done just before the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League has almost faded away and Rajasthan fast bowler Nathu Singh has no plans to go for a touch-up till next IPL season. “It is the only tournament where I can be quirky and experimental with looks. If I get to play for India I will keep it simple,” says the pacer.

At present Nathu Singh is sweating it out in the fast bowlers’ training camp at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru alongside six other pacers from different parts of the country. In a chat with ‘Caught In Slips’ the 21-year-old talks about his new innings of life where financial concerns have taken a back seat while his exposure as a cricketer is sliding like a vine and now, all his focus is singularly on making it to Team India and learning English.

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Nathu Singh taking haircut while his friend takes a picture just before leaving for IPL 2017.

TRYST WITH TENNIS BALL

While most of the players prefer sharpening their skills in the nets, Nathu likes working on himself playing gully cricket, “I really enjoy and prefer working upon my skill during games I play with a tennis ball because the biggest advantage is you have to exert more control and pressure that adds to the practice.”

A bit laidback in attending training sessions has been the factor why his body breaks down so often. “I have been told to be more serious about training. Also, attending gym regularly is what I am gradually getting in my daily routine,” said the pacer. So far his psyche was that he is a natural bowler and the best way to train was with tennis ball in gully cricket setting. “My consistency and ability to throw Yorkers has everything to do with tennis ball. It is easier for a batsman to hit a tennis ball and to avoid that bashing I strive hard to bowl a yorker every delivery. Also, because the tennis ball is light weight, more effort has to be applied that further helps in increasing shoulder rotation.” Conscious of the importance of the gym, he has now started taking it seriously but prefers to have a companion alongside to keep himself motivated.

INJURIES & IPL

During IPL 2017 he bowled in a couple of matches before encountering back trouble. “Thankfully this year I had my wheels rolling in the IPL arena. But unfortunately it was because of injury that my stint with Gujarat Lions was cut short.” His tryst with injuries has on odd connection with IPL, “Last year when I was with Mumbai I was laid up with shoulder injury and this year it was back spasm that curtailed participation beyond two games.” Despite this he has been upbeat for he was constantly backed by seasoned and legendry players who kept his morale high.

“I was reminded by all the seniors of the potential I have and they even pointed out that with pace and age on my side I am a strong contender to make it to the Team India in future given I look after myself well. Munaf Patel even pointed out at my speed that even touched 145-147 km/hr and accuracy in terms of line and length that makes me a contender for longer version of the game as well.”  

KOHLI’S PAT ON HIS BACK

Nathu’s economy was impeccable during IPL and big hitters like Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli even appeared subdued while playing him.

“I take a lot of heart from the fact that even they could not take me on. After the game against Bangalore Virat even appreciated my bowling. Moreover, during a net session in Pune where India was practicing for Tests against Australia, he applauded my accuracy and said that if I keep on working hard, I might get to play for the country within a year or so.”

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The 21-year-old celebrating with Suresh Raina after dismissing Manan Vohra during IPL 2017.

GOT A STICK FROM HODGE

He believes that it was because of him that Gujarat Lions lost its first game against Punjab as cramps had cut short his bowling to two overs.

“I was bowling fine and even took a wicket, but had to leave the field midway because of cramps. Had I continued things might have been different. When I came out Brad Hodge (coach of Gujarat Lions) reprimanded me, but Suresh Raina came to my rescue and even ensured his support for me and asked me to play with freedom.”

First outing in the IPL is never easy for a rookie with massive crowd hooting and chanting thus adding to the nervousness and pressure to perform. He recalled how edgy he was while about to deliver his very first ball of the IPL and everything happened in a blink of an eye. “Raina bhai came to me immediately after that first ball and said think as if you are playing a domestic match or gully cricket. Thereafter easing myself up I took it as if I am playing with tennis ball and on the very second ball I sent packing Manan Vohra.”

KUMBLE PITCHES IN

Nathu credits Anil Kumble for helping him iron out the problem of no-ball. “It was really great of him to devote ample amount of time in fixing my stuff. Though he was busy coaching Team India he would take some time out and mark positions where the foot should ideally land. And during IPL Hodge helped me and I bowled no no-balls during the tournament.”

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Nathu Singh (Right) with Anil Kumble during practice session in Pune on February 21.

A SHOAIB AKHTAR FAN

I always wanted to be a fast bowler, he says, adding that it was Shoaib Akhtar who inspired him. “I am a big fan of Shoaib. As a kid I used to follow him a lot and never missed the matches he played. Even when India was playing, I would switch on the channel that aired Pakistan’s game for I was very much influenced by the Rawalpindi Express.”

From the current crop, it is Mitchell Starc whom he follows and is often devouring on bowling videos featuring both the pacers to pick up cues on how they bring their shoulders, wrists and the like into work. His dream is to touch the golden mark of 161.3 km/hr some day, just as his idol did 14 years ago.

ENGLISH LESSONS FROM GUPTILL

Pakistani cricketers are often mocked for their broken English and lately we saw several people coming out in their support with heartening messages and articles stating that it is their game that is important, rest all is irrelevant. But the Rajasthan pacer wants to learn the language and is even taking notes from the New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill.

“I want to learn English so that I can easily communicate with those who do not speak Hindi. I share a good bond with Guptill and often do video chat with him. He keeps guiding me on how to speak, what to say in English and even I give him lessons in Hindi.”

Nathu will be entering his third First Class season with Ranji Trophy 2017-18 and his life has undergone massive transformation since his debut season for Team Rajasthan’s senior team in 2015. What propelled his launch was his raw talent and speed that former cricketer Rahul Dravid found hard to ignore. Making rapid strides, unlike any other Rajasthan player, he got an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract from Mumbai Indians amounting to a whopping Rs3.2 crore in 2016 and in 2017 he became a part of Gujarat Lions who bought him for Rs50 lakh. He has also been a part of the BCCI camps to help Team India train for international games and he is among handful of pacers whom BCCI is grooming as a future prospect.

 

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