It was in 2014-15 Vijay Hazare Trophy that left-arm spinner Ashutosh Aman played his debut List A match for Services against Delhi, claiming two wickets. Services went on to lose that game and Aman ended up with just one appearance that season. He had to wait two more seasons for another opportunity, again in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, taking just one wicket in three matches in the 2018 season.

In between his four appearance for Services, Aman was a regular fixture at the Palam Air Force Ground, home to Services cricket team and every time the team played their matches there, he would be on the sidelines – often doubling as a supervisor of sorts to the support staff, and waiting for his opportunity.  

For someone who has been part of the Services setup – ever since he joined Air Force after completing school – Aman had failed to make an impact, and not surprisingly, running out of time. At 32, and yet to make a First-Class appearance for Services, Aman – like many countless fringe cricketers in India – found a ray of hope when BCCI announced the addition of nine new teams to the domestic setup.

Born in Gaya, Aman was quick to seek opportunity to play for Bihar. But, no one knew him there. He had been playing his cricket in Delhi since he was a teenager with Services. But, despite no one to pull the strings for him, the left-arm spinner impressed in the district level competition in Bihar, paving way for 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy selection.

He didn’t have any happy memories of the tournament, but this time around it was different. He clearly had the edge over his competitors in the team and in the opposition. He had been part of a Elite level team for a long time and that experience came to the fore, when he claimed 14 wickets in Bihar’s run to the quarterfinals and finished the tournament with the best economy of 2.10.

A First-Class debut – long awaited one – was imminent.

Two months later – after his First-Class debut in the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season on November 1 –  Aman is atop the list of players with most wickets in a single Ranji Trophy season. He surpassed former India international Bishen Singh Bedi’s tally of 64 wickets taken in 1974/75 season, claiming four more this season in 2018-19 season.

“I feel really good that I could break the record,” Aman tells CricketCountry.com after Bihar’s win over Manipur in their last league game.

 

 

“But I know there is no comparison with Bishan Sir, he is a legend and will remain a legend. For me it is a big thing to achieve the landmark,” he goes on to add.

“I never thought I will captain the team or take these many wickers – my priority was to do enough for myself in the season and to help the team. I was thinking of putting in just about an above average performance with 40-odd wickets and a few runs with the bat as well – I would have called it a decent season.”  

All Aman could have hoped for was a decent season with a new team. Little did he know it would turn out to be a record-breaking one. He was oblivious of the Bedi’s record, until his teammates told him.

“When I was close to 50 wickets, my teammates told me about the record and at that point we had two matches remaining. That’s four innings, so I thought if I tried I could reach the landmark,” says the 32-year-old.

In his last match against Manipur, Aman removed wicketkeeper batsman Ahmed Shah for his 65th scalp of the season and went on to add three more wickets in the match. He finished the match with a haul of 11/110. This was his fifth 10-wicket haul in a match of the season, and his second innings figures of 7/71 was his ninth five-wicket haul in an innings of the season.

Unfortunately for Bihar, they lost out the only qualification spot for the knockouts from Plate Group to Uttarakhand. Bihar had lost their first game to Uttarakhand and despite claiming wins in all the other games, barring a washout against Puducherry, Bihar finished second.

But it was that game, on a green wicket in Dehradun that Aman says he performed the best.

The first match – my debut – was a memorable one and more so because it was a pacer-friendly wicket, yet I bowled well. And (Pragyan) Ojha (Bihar captain) appreciated me for that. I bowled 21 overs giving away just 34 runs and took four wickets. I thought I bowled well in that match, despite the pitch not being favourable for spinners,” says Aman, who finished the season with an amazing bowling average 6.48.

India international Ojha could only play the opening fixture for Bihar before a shoulder injury ruled him out for the entire season, but for Aman, a fellow left-arm spinner, Ojha’s influence during the season – even if it was off the field – was massive.

 

 

“Ojha bhaiya, from the time he joined the team in Vijay Hazare, he helped us a lot. Personally, he advised me on how to go about my cricket at this level, how the approach towards the game should be.

“He told me that my sole focus should not be on turning the ball. I should also aim at bowling in the right areas consistently – and off the wicket the ball should have a zip, so that the batsmen doesn’t get much time and commits a mistake.”

Going by what Aman accomplished in the season, that bowling tip seemed to have worked wonders for him.  

And after a dream debut to First-Class cricket, Aman says he is confident that he can do even better.

“As a player this (season) has been a confidence booster for me and if I continue to put in the hard work, I feel I can do even  better,” he adds.

Aman is still employed with the Air Force and will soon be back in Delhi – with his family in the Air Force quarters behind the Palam Air Force Ground – with that long awaited opportunity well and truly grabbed.