Tanmay Srivastav rose to limelight when he became the leading run-scorer in the 2008 edition of the ICC U-19 World Cup that India went on to win under the captaincy of Virat Kohli.
The Uttar Pradesh southpaw earned himself a place in the Challenger Series on the back of consistent performances in U-19 cricket and eventually went on to represent Uttar Pradesh in first-class cricket. He was also picked up by Kings XI Punjab in the inaugural edition of the IPL but hardly got any opportunities in the cash-rich league.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, the current skipper of the Uttarakhand team throws light on his cricketing career and also shares insights on the upcoming domestic cricket season. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Q: What have you been doing in the current pandemic situation?
Tanmay Srivastav: It began with being a bit boring, but I will say that gradually I have got habituated to it. In some ways, it has been a blessing in disguise as I have stayed with my wife at my Noida home through this entire period. As a professional cricketer, you seldom get the luxury of spending so much time with family.
Also, this entire situation has given me a lot of time to reflect on myself, analyse my game as well as assess my future plans, and most importantly, work on my mental as well as physical fitness.
Q: Have you been training of late and if yes, what has your training regime been like?
Tanmay Srivastav: All that I did during the lockdown was shadow practice with the bat in front of the mirror. For that reason, I did feel a bit rusty when I actually hit the nets a month back. However, I ensured that I was constantly working on my fitness even during the lockdown in whatever way I could, like using the staircase of my high-rise building for running exercises.
I was fortunate that with the IPL being announced, the ground in which I practiced was also being used by the likes of Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar), Piyush (Piyush Chawla), Karn Sharma, Shivam Mavi and Harsh Tyagi among other IPL-bound players. That gave me a great opportunity of facing good quality bowlers in the nets.
Now that I have spent almost a month in the nets and that too with all these active players, it is getting better. I think that a professional athlete finds ways of keeping himself fit and not lose touch with their sport by continuously working on themselves. The other day, I had a conversation with Bhuvi, where he told me that he too had arranged for all kinds of gym equipments in his home itself to keep up his fitness during the lockdown.
Q. You said that you got to interact with IPL-bound players. Can you tell us about their mindset going into the league with all the precautions and procedures in place for the bio bubble?
Tanmay Srivastav: It is indeed going to be challenging for the players to stay indoors for days and also travelling and playing in such testing times. It obviously will take a toll on their mental health, and I hope they can overcome these challenges and play well.
I would also like to add that with the series being organised in England and with the Caribbean Premier League taking place, it does give hope that cricket can be played and that finally, we can get a dose of watching live-action.
Q. You have been active on Twitter and seem to be following cricket a lot these days. Any thoughts on that?
Tanmay Srivastav: Yes, now that cricket action has become so hard to come by, I have been following whatever cricket is being played. Earlier what used to happen was that there was so much cricket being played at all levels and coupled with that I too was mostly busy with my commitments that I hardly got time to follow a lot of the game.
But now with a scarcity of cricket and a lot of time on hand for me, I do watch it and also tweet about my thoughts on the game. With the IPL coming up, I am sure each one of us is looking forward to watching cricket very eagerly.
Q. Talking of the IPL, how has your experience with it been like?
Tanmay Srivastav: My IPL experience was very limited as I got to bat just thrice for Kings XI Punjab. Two of those three occasions were when I walked out to face the last ball of the innings, which also happened to be hat-trick balls. So in that way, it did get a bit frustrating at times to travel and train with the squad for two-three months and yet not get the chance to showcase my abilities.
However, I would also like to add here that back in 2008 and 2009, I would not say that my batting was at a level where I could consider myself the best person to fit into a batting order that boasted of the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Shaun Marsh. To be sharing the dressing room with these established greats of the game in itself was a huge learning experience for me.
Q: How has your batting evolved over the years since the time you made your first-class debut in 2006?
Tanmay Srivastav: When I was young, I loved scoring big runs at whichever level I played and ensured that once I got in, I scored 100s, 150s and 200s. Even when I started playing the Ranji Trophy, my aim was always to score big and benefit my team. Now that I am the captain of the young Uttarakhand team, I am expected to play the role of a senior player and benefit the team from my leadership and experience.
At the start of my career, I was primarily a one-down batsman, but when I entered the UP (Uttar Pradesh) Ranji team in 2006, it was already a very balanced side. I was still an 18-year-old when in a match against Baroda, I was sent in at number seven or eight, and I ended up scoring 80-odd runs but then followed it up in the second innings with a duck as I was made to open the batting.
Kaif Bhai (Mohammad Kaif) was our captain, and he sat me down with the selectors and told me that I was a bright talent. But to fit into the scheme of things in the team, I had to become an opener as there was only one vacant spot. He also told me to think about it critically as it could be a career-defining decision as the opener's position is a specialist one.
However, I took the challenge and trained hard during the off-season period to succeed as an opener. In the 2008 Ranji Trophy final against Delhi, I was flown back from South Africa where I was playing with the U-19 team, and it was very satisfying to score my maiden first-class century in the big match and that too as an opener.
Q. Do you think that moving up the order cost you in the longer run?
Tanmay Srivastav: No, definitely I would not say so. Just the fact that Kaif bhai gave me that opportunity to open for the team and that I could justify the decision by scoring a lot of runs in the first two seasons makes me feel grateful.
I believe that as a professional cricketer, I should be ready to perform whatever role the team demands from me and to blame my moving up the order for lack of continued success would be unfair. Had I been adamant of playing in the middle-order, I probably would not have got even these many chances and would have scored even less runs than I have.
What really cost me was that I was not able to deliver the kind of results expected from me on a consistent basis.
Q. Talking of the UP team, can you share some of your best memories with the team and give us some insight into the dressing room in that time?
Tanmay Srivastav: Having spent so many years with that team, I cannot point out one memory as the best. There are many great memories with everyone from that team. The fact that we were a successful group enabled us to be jovial and enjoy our games at all times. I feel the team's success and positive environment enhanced my personal performances as well.
Also, the team environment was such that we all helped each other and enjoyed each other's successes a lot. That team produced so many international cricketers. The likes of Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla and then later on Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sudeep Tyagi, Shalabh Srivastav were all superb cricketers, and so many of them went on to serve Indian cricket for long.
Q. What influenced your move from Uttar Pradesh to Uttarakhand?
Tanmay Srivastav: To be honest, my performances for UP had started dipping and as an experienced player, I was expected to score 800-900 runs in a season while all I was able to score was 400-500 runs. This resulted in me sitting out an entire domestic season.
I took that time to reflect upon myself and consider future plans, and that is when Rajiv Shukla Sir gave me this opportunity of going and playing for the recently-formed Uttarakhand team. I am thankful to Shukla Sir for this chance as I believed it would be good to be a part of a young setup and contribute to their cause with my experience in first-class cricket.
Q. And how was it to be made the captain of the Uttarakhand team, that too in the middle of the season?
Tanmay Srivastav: I remember Unmukt (Unmukt Chand) was leading us in the List-A format, and he twisted his ankle that ruled him out for a few games, at the very least. Then Sourabh Rawat led us in a match against Chandigarh where I also scored a century. I was then made the captain of the T20 team and eventually given the responsibility to lead the first-class team as well.
It was definitely challenging given that it came in the middle of the campaign. Every captain has his own leadership style and therefore to adapt to each one of them takes time for the entire team. However, I will have to thank the support staff and the team members for trusting and supporting me, which made my job very easy.
Q. What is your captaincy style, and is it influenced by any of the captains you have played under?
Tanmay Srivastav: Mine is a very simple game-plan. I ask the bowlers to execute their own plans and if they are unable to deliver results that way, then bowl according to the plans I set for the team. After having led the boys in the T20 format and in the 4-day matches, I was able to form a close bond with them and we shared great camaraderie.
I am a strong believer of bowlers winning matches, and thus it was essential that the bowlers were comfortable in talking to me about their plans. At the same time, they trusted my field settings and were willing to bowl accordingly. The batsmen too spoke to me about their preferred batting positions and their game-plans. I wanted to be approachable for all my teammates and not make them feel that I was a senior player they could not talk to.
Q. How do you see the talent of the Uttarakhand team and what are your thoughts on the team shaping up for the future?
Tanmay Srivastav: As far as local talent is concerned, I think there is an abundance of it. The fact that the boys from the state were involved in cricket with other states prior to the formation of the team helped the team's cause. Uttarakhand have also reached the semi-final at the U-19 level, which is a great testament to the future talent in the state.
Last season, we put ourselves in great positions in a lot of matches before losing at critical junctures. We had Maharashtra reeling at 30-6 at their home ground. Similarly in a match against Haryana, after being bowled out for 102, we had them at 90-9. But somehow we could not capitalise on such situations and lost matches. So I would say that we do have the talent and also the fighting spirit. It is just about the execution of plans and a little more experience that is required for us to succeed.
In the times to come, I can say that this team has the talent and the support system to be the 'underdogs' and a team that others will not t lightly.
Q. Do you think that Uttarakhand cricket is in safe administrative hands and that going forward, talented individuals will not have to look towards other states?
Tanmay Srivastav: Yes, definitely. I think that CAU (Cricket Association of Uttarakhand) is working hard for the welfare of the sport. They had a lot of planning in place for the upcoming season, and it's sad that it has been negatively affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of camps were being put in place for the players to be able to train, and also 3-day and 4-day matches were in the pipeline.
As far as infrastructure is concerned, the fact that a small place like Dehradun has four grounds that have hosted Ranji Trophy matches is in itself huge. The international stadium has great facilities as well. The current secretary of CAU, Mr. Mahim Verma, who is also the ex-VP of the BCCI, has brought a lot of his experience into the CAU and is helping the state in nurturing talent.
Q. What are your thoughts on Wasim Jaffer being appointed as the coach of the Uttarakhand team?
Tanmay Srivastav: It is a great opportunity for the team, including me. It again shows that the administration is concerned about the team as they have brought on board such a stalwart of Indian cricket as the team's coach. I have played against him as well as with him at various levels and on multiple occasions.
He is a very approachable person, and one can always feel free to walk into his room and have a chat about their game. I would say that the young team can hugely benefit from his mere presence in the dressing room and obviously from the feedback he will have for us.
Q. What are your thoughts about the upcoming season possibly being a truncated one?
Tanmay Srivastav: It is tough to predict how much cricket we will get to play in the current times. I am sure that the BCCI will do everything possible to have as much of the season taking place as they possibly can; the announcement of the IPL gives us hope in that regard.
As a cricketer, I would just say that some cricket is better than no cricket. But, yes, everything will have to be done while keeping in mind the primary concern of the safety of everyone involved.
Q. Have you enjoyed playing in the Dehradun weather? How would you compare the international cricket grounds in Dehradun and Lucknow?
Tanmay Srivastav: Dehradun has always been a very beautiful place. Playing over there in winters, with the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds and the ball nipping around in the chilly mornings gives you the feeling of playing in England.
As I already mentioned, the ground in Dehradun is world-class. Although, I have not played at the Ekana Stadium (in Lucknow), but it too is a great modern sporting facility.
However, I would want to say here that my fondest memories are at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur. That is where I spent my formative years in cricket, and every time I go and play there, the rich heritage of the ground makes me feel nostalgic.
Q. What are your thoughts on the kind of work done by the BCCI with Sourav Ganguly at its helm of affairs? Also, if you could share some insight on the pay structure of domestic cricketers?
Tanmay Srivastav: I think that the BCCI is doing a great job of running the sport in the country. As far as Ganguly is concerned, we all know that he is a legend of the sport and knows the pulse of the game. His team did have a lot of plans, but I think that a short tenure was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic dented a lot of their planning. The fact that they are organising the IPL in such testing times shows how capable they are.
With respect to pay structure, I would say that cricket is played out of passion and not for the money that comes along with it. We all start off playing the sport, not with the intent of making money but just for the sheer enjoyment we get by doing so. And to be able to play at a certain level and make our passion into a career is in itself a great satisfaction, one that no amount of money can provide. Also, teams that end up being in the top four are all paid very well.
Apart from that, the state associations take great care of the players. Today, we travel to all our games by flight and get far more as daily allowances than we used to get a few years back. The fact that the BCCI has given the states from north-east, Pondicherry and Uttarakhand to form teams and compete with the best teams shows their thought process.
Today, the number of matches has increased manifold. There are players at U-14, U-16, U-19 and U-23 levels and not just for men's cricket but also in women's cricket. That has, in turn, helped so many officials and umpires who get involved with the game to earn livelihoods out of the sport.
Q. Which IPL team will you be cheering for in the upcoming season?
Tanmay Srivastav: I am an out and out Chennai Super Kings fan. I love the team because of MS Dhoni and the way he manages his team. I admire his horses-for-courses approach and the way he backs his players.
I also enjoy watching the batting of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. Apart from this, I ensure that I follow the performances of all my friends.
Q. What would you tell your 18-year-old self who came back from Malaysia as the leading run-scorer in the U-19 World Cup-winning side?
Tanmay Srivastav: I would tell him to always cherish the successes as one doesn't know how many times they may come and how long they would last. I would also tell my younger self to be thankful to God for providing the opportunity to do something I have always been so passionate about and make a career out of it.
Also, I think it is important for one to evolve with changing times. For instance, back in 2008, when I was the leading scorer, social media was not that prevalent. But today, if someone is the Man of the Tournament in the U-19 World Cup, social media will elevate him to a great status and shower accolades on him.
Coming from Lucknow and Kanpur, I realised that being covered by the media in UP meant that not many would know about you outside UP. But if you are covered by the media in Delhi or Mumbai, it means you are known by a much larger audience, and hence your reach is also that much more.