Bishan Singh Bedi's praise meant a lot for me: Akshay Darekar

Maharashtra bowler Akshay Darekar is confident of playing in the Indian Premier League. He says, â If I continue performing the way Iâ m, hopefully Iâ ll get a chance to play in the league.


By Sudatta Mukherjee & Aayush Puthran


While left-arm spinners like Pawan Negi, Shahbaz Nadeem and Ankit Sharma have been making their mark in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) season, it is a Ranji Trophy Plate Division bowler from Maharashtra, who has caught the attention of the selectors for the India ‘A’ squad to West Indies.


Akshay Darekar, 23, who came into limelight last year following an eight-for innings haul against Hyderabad, will be alongside big names like Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rudra Pratap Singh and Ajinkya Rahane on the tour of the Caribbean.


After changing himself from being a defensive bowler to an aggressive one, Darekar aims of making it big. “There is no harm in dreaming big,” Darekar says with the air of confidence and self-belief of a winner.


In an exclusive interview to CricketCountry, Darekar talks about his dream to see Maharashtra win the Ranji Trophy Elite and playing alongside Sachin Tendulkar.


CricketCountry: You made your First-Class debut in 2010 and picked up 10 wickets in your maiden season. In the second season you ended up picking 32 wickets at an average of just above 17. How were the two seasons different as far as your bowling was concerned?


Akshay Darekar (AD): Nothing much specifically. Although I didn’t pick up too many wickets in the first season, the economy rate was pretty low. I was a little unlucky not to get wickets. In the second season, my mindset was to attack from the very first ball itself. That probably helped along – with a little bit of luck.


CC: Your action is quite similar to that of Daniel Vettori. Did you intentionally model your action according to his?


AD: Not at all. In fact I had developed that action much before Vettori came on the international scene. It is just a coincidence that we have similar actions.


CC: Which cricketer did you idolise as you grew up?


AD: Sachin Tendulkar, of course! He was the best player when I had started watching cricket. I even got quite a few chances to bowl to him. Just before India’s tour of Bangladesh I used to bowl to him in the nets at MMRDA ground (Bandra Kurla Complex). I even got him out once. But every delivery after that, he drove me handsomely. The thing about Sachin is that he will never commit the same mistake twice. I would love to play alongside Tendulkar – at least once in my lifetime.


CC: Amongst the bowlers, whom do you look up to?


AD: Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. It is amazing how in modern day bowling conditions they managed to get so many wickets.


CC: Your early cricket development took place in the maidans of Mumbai. What’s your take on the current infrastructure for cricket? Is the basic infrastructure good enough to produce quality cricketers?


AD: The infrastructure is developing. The current state is not bad, at least for us. Maybe in other interior parts of the country it may not be as good, but it’s decent enough and developing quite rapidly. The infrastructure may not yet be good enough to produce quality fielders, but as Sunil Gavaskar had once said, the rigours of playing domestic matches toughens a player mentally and creates the right mental attitude to face quality opposition at the international level.


CC: What is your biggest asset?


AD: My level of patience. Patience is extremely important to succeed at any level of cricket. Playing under these conditions has made me value the importance of patience. There are times when things go wrong and times when one gets nothing from the wicket. It is critical to let those period of play pass.


CC: Since when have you been playing cricket? Who all have been chiefly responsible for your development as a cricketer?


AD: I started playing cricket when I was two and a half years old under Shivalkar sir (Padmakar Shivalkar’s brother) in Shivaji Park. My initial cricket training happened for quite a few years before I moved to Matunga to play matches. It was Ramesh Mahamulkar, my coach, there who had asked me to bowl spin and not fast. Since then, my growth was rapid and I got a lot more opportunities to play for various teams.


CC: How supportive have your parents been with respect to you pursuing cricket?


AD: I have been quite fortunate that my parents have been extremely supportive and encouraged me in my endeavour to pursue my passion. In fact, even when my father didn’t have enough money to buy me a bat, he would arrange money from somewhere to ensure that I get whatever cricketing gears I want. They have been my biggest source of encouragement. My father always says that I have only one life and I should do what I love. He has never forced to study or do anything that I didn’t feel like.


CC: Do you wish to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL)?


AD: Of course yes. I’m waiting for a call to play in the IPL. If I continue performing the way I’m, hopefully I’ll get a chance to play in the league.


CC: Many players get selected on the basis of their IPL performances? Do you feel performances in the domestic matches don’t get noticed as much as IPL does?


AD: That is not true. It is just that in IPL the level of competition is higher and that is why any good performance at such a stage would deserve more appreciation than the one’s in the domestic matches. But good performances in domestic competitions also get its due importance.


CC: What thoughts cross your mind when you find that players like Parvinder Awana, Suryakumar Yadav, KP Appanna who are all performing well in the IPL but didn’t get selected for India A?


AD: It makes me feel that the selectors have faith in my ability. I’m delighted to get a chance to play for India A, ahead of other left-arm spinners like Pragyan Ojha and Iqbal Abdulla. 


CC: Who do you turn for advice?


AD: My mother and my friend Sagar are the people I turn to for advice. Apart from them, I like going to the temple and be by myself and talk to God.


CC: Do you have plans to move to better clubs like Mumbai where there are more opportunities and chances of winning more titles?


AD: No way! I’m extremely happy playing for Maharashtra. I want to be with Maharashtra and win titles with them. The current squad gels very well and we have a dream to win Ranji Trophy with Maharashtra. 


CC: What makes playing for Maharashtra so special for you?


AD: The team is young, energetic and fun. They feeling of unity within the team help each one of us perform better. We enjoy being together. Our captain Rohit Motwani is extremely encouraging. Everybody in the team holds respect for each other. Shaun Williams, our coach, has ensured that team bonding is more essential than developing individual skills. Our manager also ensures that a newcomer is not made to feel like a newcomer.


CC: Who is your best friend in cricket?


AD: I’m extremely close to Kedar Jadhav. We have always been roommates. Our bonding improved drastically especially after the match against Hyderabad where he was the star performer with the bat and I took eight wickets for 20 runs. Kedar and I had stitched a valuable partnership with the bat in that match to help our team win.


CC: The pitch was a rank turner in the match against Hyderabad. Yet, most of the wickets that you got were from deliveries that straightened. How do you explain that?


AD: It’s no big deal to turn the ball in such pitches. Anybody can do that. My aim was to get wickets. I remember watching Sunil Joshi use the same ploy once when he would bowl straighter one’s and get the batsmen out leg before wicket.


CC: Which areas of your cricket are you trying to improve?


AD: I’m constantly working on my bowling. More than that, I’m practicing a lot batting in the nets. I’m a decent batsman who had started as an opener. I believe I can contribute a lot more with the bat.


CC: What is the best compliment you’ve received so far?


AD: It was from Bishan Singh Bedi after the match against Jammu and Kashmir. He told me that he was mightily impressed with my bowling. Apart from being the greatest left-arm spinner of our country and probably the best the world has seen, Bedi sir is also one of those guys who would call a spade a spade. The fact that he said he had faith in me that I would go a long way meant a lot to me.


(Sudatta Mukherjee claims to be a Jill of all trades and mistress of none. She is affable, crazy and a wannabe writer. Her Twitter ID is @blackrosegal. Oh yes! You do know her!)


(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee! )