Eight-year old Krishna Narayan is a prodigious talent whose batting skills took YouTube by storm. From the three-year old who caught the eye with a perfect technique against the plastic ball, to an eight-year old who made his debut in an official game against men, Krishna’s story is one that tugs the heart. Behind his pursuit of dreams is a dedicated father, Rajesh Kumar.
In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry, Rajesh talks to Nishad Pai Vaidya about Krishna’s beginnings, his exceptional talent, the recent match debut and dreams for the future.
There are a few stories that tug the heart and inspire you to follow your dreams. One such story is that of Krishna Narayan, an eight-year old budding cricketer from Kerala. Born on April 16, 2004, Krishna took to cricket at the age of three. A third standard student at St. Paul's Higher Secondary School, Thenhipalam in Malappuram District, Krishna played his first official game - against grownups.
Behind the remarkable journey, stands his devoted father, Rajesh Kumar. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Rajesh:
CricketCountry (CC): At what age did Krishna start playing cricket?
Rajesh Kumar (RK): I wanted to initiate Krishna into cricket at age 11, but he was about one year and eight months old when we started playing inside the house. Everything happened quite quickly, by God’s grace.
CC: His first video was shot when he was three years old and we saw him play some good cricketing shots. Who taught him then?
RK: Before he started playing, we used to sit in front of the television to help him get the right inspiration. More than me teaching him, I think it was the influence of watching matches on television that helped Krishna greatly. I can’t say I taught him; it’s all God’s grace.
CC: What made you post his video on YouTube?
RK: The first video was taken when he was three years and seven months old. I didn’t actually want to put it up on YouTube. I wanted to evaluate him and see how he moved his feet, which is clearer in a film than while watching live. This is why I shot the video. Later, my nephew insisted that I should post it on YouTube, though I was apprehensive initially.
CC: How did things change once you uploaded the video?
RK: Two days after uploading the video came the first comment, from a person in the US. My nephew told me that this could give Krishna good exposure. So, the next video was shot when he was three years and ten months old. Mr Rejith Rajendran, a member Kerala Cricket Association (KCA), saw that video and connected me with Krishna’s current coach, Biju George.
CC: At what age did Krishna start playing against the leather ball?
RK: Krishna started playing the leather ball in October 2010 - when he was six and a half years old.
CC: Two videos were put up after that. Do you think there was a bit of a change in his technique after the transition from plastic balls to leather ball?
RK: Yes, there was a change as his stance was different. Initially he used to rest the bat on the ground which then became a backlift-like stance. You must see all the videos. The fifth video in particular, with the Mongoose bat, has him in an awkward stance. People used to tell me that someone else has taught him the wrong thing, but it is not so. It was just because I never compelled him. One of my brother’s sons, elder to Krishna, was like a hero to him. His stance was like that and Krishna adopted it. Luckily, he isn’t stubborn and when I asked him to change it, he did it. He complained that he wasn’t able to make contact with the ball etc. I asked him to enjoy the game – which is what I want him to do. After seeing the video, Biju Sir said this is not the right way, and that is when he actually changed. Biju sir and Krishna have a very good chemistry. Whatever, he says, Krishna adopts it immediately.
CC: We heard that Mr. Biju lives in Thiruvananthapuram and you live near Calicut. So, it isn’t exactly formal coaching. How do you work it out?
RK: We stay in Mallapuram district, which is close to Calicut and Biju sir is in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), which is nearly 500 kilometres away. We would practice in the net, which is on our home compound, and I would take videos and send them to Biju sir. If there were any corrections needed, he would tell me not to compel Krishna to make the change but merely tell him that this is the right way. Whenever he wants to adopt it let him. So, the tips I get from Biju sir, I pass it on to Krishna. Everything is happening because of his guidance. We got to meet him whenever possible, whether it is Kochi or Trivandrum.
CC: What was Mr. Biju’s reaction on watching the fifth video?
RK: Biju sir was not all impressed by the fifth video and asked me to take it off YouTube. However, it was made for Mongoose, who had sponsored Krishna for that year. They wanted to put it on their website. I emailed them that because of the stance problem, I would like to delete the video and make a new one and send it. They told me that it wasn’t a problem and it was going smoothly on their website. So, I didn’t try to delete it.
CC: There is a difference between his seventh video and the latest one (the eighth) as his bat is closer to his body in stance position. What kind of work has gone into making his stance better?
RK: Biju sir corrected Krishna’s backlift and then asked him to drive. Krishna said he was able to time the ball better and got more power in his shots. In the eight video, there are a few shots where he has slogged. Actually, he is not that kind of a player. In fact, during that video session it wasn’t like that. I asked him after shooting the video why he attempted such uppish strokes. He said that there were comments which said that he wasn’t able to play powerful shots, which is why he played that way. At practice, he plays 200-250 balls every day. We do not have a ground near our place, so we are confined to the net. Some of my friends who live close by come directly after work and bowl to him. He is allowed to get out only eight times. If he gets out say before a hundred balls are bowled, he wouldn’t be allowed to bat that day. We are trying to make him value his wicket.
CC: Apart from the practice regimes, does he get to play matches?
RK: Yes, Krishna played his first official match on May 27, 2012 when we had gone to Trivandrum for training with Biju sir. After seeing Krishna bat in the nets with the seniors, Biju sir suggested that we try him in a district league qualifying game. It was a game in which seniors played. I told him that it is up to him as he has been guiding the child. Krishna was ready. He played that game and stayed at the crease for 20 minutes – scoring 12 runs which included two boundaries. We got great appreciation from everyone. It was his first match outside the nets. Also, at the nets he plays on concrete, while he played his first official match on mat.
CC: Krishna was selected for the National Cricket Academy, under-12 camp in February-March 2010. How did that come about as he hadn’t played an official cricket then?
RK: Krishna was only five years and ten months old then and unfortunately that camp didn’t take place. We had even received our air tickets, but the camp was first postponed and later called off. I was told Mr. Sandeep Patil had come to the KCA and officials there showed him the video of Krishna.
CC: Krishna’s talent has received a lot of praise from ex-cricketers as well. Can you throw light on that?
RK: One of my relative, who works in Bangalore and who knows Anil Kumble, mailed the link to him. Kumble saw the video and replied that, “I have seen this video a long time back. Krishna has a great future, if nurtured well. If you want help, please let me know.” I replied that I need only one thing and that is to meet you. I’m eagerly waiting that opportunity. I keep telling Krishna is that it is important to be a great human being like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Kumble and VVS Laxman. One of our greatest ambitions is to meet them and get their blessings. I would love my kid to be a good human being with good cricketing skills. I tell Krishna that I don’t want you to be a cricketer unless you possess those qualities.
CC: What are your future plans for him?
RK: We are planning to shift to Trivandrum to be closer to Biju sir as also for better exposure. But shifting is not so easy.
CC: Is anybody sponsoring Krishna’s kit?
RK: Stanford Cricket Industries is sponsoring him. Nobody would actually support a four year old kid, but Stanford had stood by Krishna. On hearing that he played his first game, Mr Anil Sareen of Standford said that he will send a brand new kit with a bat. In fact, everything is sponsored by them including the balls we use in the nets.
CC: What kind of support have you received from others at home?
RK: I’m not rigid in my decisions. Had my parents or wife objected to Krishna playing in the house when he was so young, I would have stopped it till he got a chance to play outside. I was working in a company, but I resigned from there because Krishna’s practice was disturbed. But before I took the decision, I spoke to my wife, Jiji and the rest of my whole family.
Krishna has received amazing support from many people. Let me take this opportunity to thank the Almighty, YouTube, KCA officials, especially Mr. Rejith Rajendran, KCA secretary Mr TC Mathews, vice president Mr. Haridas, Mr. Anil of Sareen Stanford Cricket Industries and above all his coach Mr. Biju George.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)