New Delhi: Rajasthan fast bowler Rituraj Singh, just one Ranji Trophy season old, was on Friday rewarded with a place in India A's squad for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.
While Rituraj's new-ball partner Pankaj Singh has been relentlessly plugging away on the domestic circuit, having taken almost 180 wickets over four seasons, the 21-year-old has made it to India A on the basis of five first-class matches in which he took 27 wickets.
Rituraj is a product of MRF Pace Foundation and was shot to fame when he claimed 12 wickets against Haryana in the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy semi-finals. His barnstorming exploits fired Rajasthan into the final where he added four wickets to his tally in the final on a placid wicket.
On the day he was selected for the New Zealand tour, Rituraj spoke to Cricketnext about his career and future plans. Excerpts from the interview…
Your first thoughts on being selected in the India A squad for New Zealand?
I'm thrilled. It is like a dream come true for me. Every young cricketer dreams to don the Indian colours and I consider myself fortunate that I've got this opportunity very early in my career. I am looking forward to make the most of the opportunity which has come my way. But, I will not get carried away. This is just a first step towards fulfilling my ultimate dream which is to represent India's senior team at an international level. It'll take a lot of hard work and sweat.
Take us through your cricket journey. Who are the people who have contributed in your career?
I started plying cricket when I was seven. My coach and mentor is Mr Anil Sinha who has been a fountain of knowledge and inspiration for me. I played U-15, U-17 and U-22 for Rajasthan and a couple of years back I was sent to MRF Pace academy where I was trained under the tutelage of the great Dennis Lillee. He worked especially on the mental aspect of the game and taught me how to outwit the batsmen. He also encouraged me to retain my style while ironing out minuscule kinks. I shall always be thankful to him. Also, the coach of Rajasthan, Amit Asawa, earnestly worked with me.
Tell us about your performance in the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy against Haryana in which you picked up 12 wickets.
The conditions in Lahli were conducive for the swing bowling and the ball was moving prodigiously off the pitch and also in the air. Our captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar told me to just pitch the ball in the right corridor and rest everything would be taken care of by the conditions. Though, the key point was not to spray the ball around in a bid to try too fast or put in too much effort. I did what my captain instructed me from time to time. I bowled according to the field and was richly rewarded. It was a low-scoring match and in the end, we comfortably won by 64 runs. I was adjudged Man of the Match.
What is your current bowling speed? Do you make efforts to increase your speed?
My current bowling speed is 132-133 kph. I'm not making any effort to increase my speed as of now. I'm 21 years old and by age, I will gain more strength which will allow me to crank up my bowling speed. I want speed to come to me naturally or else one always runs the risk of getting injured if one goes against the structure of his body. I don't wish to be the fastest bowler in the world. I aspire to become the most effective one. There's more to bowling than just raw speed. But as I said, with time, I shall surely add to my current bowling speed.
Who is the bowler you look up to as a role model?
Shaun Pollock. He didn't have supersonic pace but won a lot of matches for his country. He was seldom injured and bowled with considerable control.
Who is the one batsman you would love to bowl to?
Among Indians, Sachin Tendulkar. Otherwise, Hashim Amla.