Vidarbha might have started the 2017-18 domestic season as the dark horses but by the end of it, they were by far its story. For, they ended up clinching the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Cup respectively, getting their name etched forever in the cricketing folklore of the 1.3 billion strong people country.
Born on April 1, 1995, in Varanasi, Sanjay Ramaswamy might not be the instinctive focus when we talk about Vidarbha cricket but he surely made ripples in the recently concluded domestic season.
The 22-year-old ended up as the third highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy as he churned out 775 runs at an average of 64.58. It was because of him and the skipper, Faiz Fazal, who also happens to be his opening partner that Vidarbha cruised on their way to the championship.
The Varanasi-born starlet in an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda spoke at length about his cricketing journey so far.
Yash Kashikar (YK): Please talk us through your childhood. How did you get into cricket?
Sanjay Ramaswamy (SR): As a child, I used to play cricket in our locality alongside my elder brother. My father always wanted at least one of us to become a cricketer. However, unfortunately, due to an injury, my elder brother could not pursue the game further. After that, my father got me enrolled at the Ambedkar cricket club in Nagpur. And that is how my journey in professional cricket started.
YK: How were you as a student? Did education take a back seat once you decided to pursue cricket professionally?
SR: To be honest, until 9th grade, it did not have a major impact on my academics. Two months before the exams, I used to take leave from the academy. Of course, after that, it was not easy to balance both cricket and academics but somehow I managed it.
YK: Did you have your family support to get in the sport?
SR: Of course, as I said earlier, it was my father's dream that at least one of his children should become a cricketer. In fact, right from 6th grade when I started playing cricket professionally, he has been there on the ground to watch me play in almost all the games. And my mother has always been there with me through thick and thin.
YK: Now after winning the Ranji Trophy and the Irani Cup, so much limelight, felicitations, and media hype, how has life changed for you over the last few months?
SR: Over the last few months or so, we have received a lot of love and support from the people in Nagpur as well as the country. Winning the Ranji Trophy was an extremely special moment for all of us. And the kind of reception we got at the airport after returning from Indore, it was simply unbelievable. Of course, now the expectation levels have gone up, and I am quite sure that we will do even better in the future.
YK: Even though you made your Ranji debut three odd years back. It was only this season that you cemented your place in the playing XI. How do you look back on this journey?
SR: Yes, to be honest, I didn't play well in my first season for Vidarbha. I played my first match in Nagpur against Punjab. And I was quite nervous and also a bit low in confidence during that time. Eventually, I failed in both the innings.
The second match I played that season was against Haryana and I failed again. Eventually, after two games, I was dropped from the squad. But now at times when I look back, I feel that all these things actually made me mentally stronger. After that, I went back to my club and worked very hard on the basics.
Prashant Bambal sir who has been my coach since childhood, he helped me a lot. Sir told me that it was good that I saw this particular phase quite early in my career and now I should focus on how I can make a comeback. Since then, I have never looked back and now it has started reflecting on my performance.
YK: I have heard that at one point in time you had actually thought of leaving cricket after being dropped from the U-19 team. Please tell us what exactly had happened back then. How did you overcome that phase?
SR: Actually, during that time there were two local tournaments in Nagpur which were very crucial for a player's selection in the U-19 squad. I was the highest run-getter in both the tournaments. Yet, the selectors did not consider me for the team. And that is when I was completely shattered and I actually thought of leaving the game forever.
Again Prashant sir was the one who came to my rescue during that time. He kept on motivating me and also arranged some matches with an academy so that I got match practice. After that, I was called for a camp at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) and eventually, things fell into place.
YK: A day before the final match of the Bapuna Cricket Tournament, which is the de facto trials for Ranji team in Vidarbha, you were going through a lean patch and had some technical error in your batting. That is when Wasim Jaffer helped you a lot. Please tell us more about it.
SR: I had actually developed a technical fault in my batting as a result of which both my feet were going back and across leaving my alignment in a problem and I had absolutely no clue as to where my off-stump was.
That is when Wasim bhaiya and Chandrakant Pandit sir suggested to me that my initial movement should only be with my back leg and the second movement should come only after the ball is bowled. In fact, both of them worked on my batting for close to 7 hours that day.
Next day, during our match against Mumbai, Wasim bhaiya was watching me bat from the sidelines and he was continuously advising me as to what I should do. It helped me a lot and eventually, I scored 86 not out on that day.
YK: You went on to score 775 runs in the 2017-18 Ranji season at an average of 64.58. On a personal note, how would you rate this season?
SR: To be honest, I am not very satisfied with my overall performance in this season. During the league matches, I played well but eventually in the knockout stage where it mattered the most, I could not score much. That is something which disappoints me a lot.
YK: You were there at the non-striker's end when Wasim Jaffer hit that winning boundary. Can you recall back those memories?
SR: Actually, it is very difficult to explain that particular moment in words. It was simply incredible. Right from the very beginning of this season, Chandrakant Pandit sir kept on telling us that we were not going to play just for the sake of participation.
He instilled the self-belief in every player that we are going to win the title this time around. In fact, he was the one who changed our entire mindset and approach towards the game and now the results speak for it.
YK: How was it playing under the leadership of Faiz Fazal?
SR: Faiz bhaiya is a great leader and a very humble person, to be honest. He keeps on guiding the youngsters whenever they need any help. Whether it is on or off the field, he is very friendly with all of us and we always seek inspiration from him.
YK: Now you are also going to play in the county cricket B Division for the Fordhouses Cricket Club. How excited are you for it?
SR: Yes, I have just signed a contract with the club. I always wanted to have an experience of playing in the tough English conditions. Hopefully, I will have a good outing for them.
Sanjay Ramaswamy goes hammer and tongs in the slog overs, i.e. our special rapid-fire segment.
Your nickname: Sanju
Favourite stadium: VCA, Civil lines (Nagpur)
Favourite cuisine: Pav Bhaji
Dream holiday destination: The Maldives
Celebrity crush: Alia Bhatt (He chuckles)
If not a cricketer then: Footballer
One song which is at the top of your playlist currently: Tera Yaar Hoon Main from Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety
Cricketing idol: Michael Clarke
Favourite cricketing shot: Cover-drive
One superpower you would love to possess: To go invisible
Describe yourself in one word: Boring (Bursts out laughing)
Published 26 Mar 2018, 20:45 IST