tushar deshpande
Tushar Deshpande

Sitting in the comfort of his home in Kalayan, a sense of accomplishment oozes from Mumbai pacer Tushar Deshpande. No, he has not won any jackpot, nor has he received his maiden India call-up. What has made Deshpande’s Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season opener against Railways on Monday special, more than achieving career-best figures of 6/70, was the number ‘four’ in the NB (no-balls) column.

Flashback to October 6, 2016. Deshpande makes his first-class debut for Mumbai against Tamil Nadu and snapped four wickets, but he returns with six no-balls, the highest in the match. That issue turned out to be chronic. In his previous eight first-class matches (before this season’s Ranji opener), Deshpande took 21 wickets, but jumped his marker a staggering 67 times. According to some statisticians, 12 wickets off no-balls were recorded.

“Those no-balls were due to my over-aggression and over-excitement wherein I used to miss my run-up mark in the bargain. What was more frustrating is that sometimes those no-ball resulted in wickets. That in fact used to affect my bowling. Half the time, I used to concentrate on bowling legal deliveries. It was a huge mental block. I was never 100 per cent focussed on how to claim a wicket,” Deshpande told CricketCountry on Monday.

During the Ranji match at the Karnail Singh Stadium in New Delhi that ended with Mumbai pocketing three points on Sunday, the stocky built fast bowler realised how to control his no-ball issue.

“In the first match, initially, I was a little over-excited. I wanted to pick wickets, and, in the bargain, I bowled a few no-balls in that over-aggression and excitement. But on day three, I sorted it out and did not bowl even one no-ball in the 13 overs I bowled,” he said.

An infused sense of discipline has brought about a stark change in Deshpande’s season this year. After undergoing surgery on his left ankle that ruled him out of the season last year, Deshpande bounced back to the season-opening Vijay Hazare Trophy where he finished with 15 wickets in eight matches as Mumbai won the title after 12 years.

“From this season, I made a habit not to bowl any no-balls. If it happens during a match, then fine, but during practice, I make it a point not to bowl any no-balls. Last season, after my surgery, I kept watching videos of Dale Steyn [South Africa pacer]. YouTube has all of them. In fact, he is my inspiration throughout this journey I have watched almost all his videos, Now, I think about him whenever I bowl,” Deshpande, a Shivaji Park Gymkhana product, said.

This season has been nothing short of heroic and Deshpande just wants to climb up the ladder and up his pace meter as well. “When I was injured, many people used to come and tell me that my pace will decrease after injury. I did not want to pay heed to all of that. I am 23-year-old and did not want to fall prey to that talk. My aim after coming back from injury was to bowl quicker than before. That’s always on my mind during my rehab and prehab,” he said.

Steyn, meanwhile, will not be forgotten. Given a chance to meet the veteran pacer, Deshpande has just one question. “I want him to tell me the secret of bowling 145 nicks the whole day. During the Vijay Hazare Trophy, I bowled 142kmph, but they were just a few bowls. Steyn bowls at 145 consistently at the international level. Other things I can learn, but the aggression, attitude can be learned from someone I look up to can do that,” he said.