The Indian domestic circuit is a mix of young and veteran talent. While not all individuals are able to translate their local achievements into national recognition, there are some who manage to come into the limelight.
One such name is Aniket Choudhary, a lanky pacer who plays for Rajasthan. Choudhary recently made headlines, not for being drafted into the Indian cricket team, but instead for preparing the Indian batsmen to face Australia in the upcoming 4-Test series.
And Choudhary was elated, just like any other budding cricketer would have been. Speaking to Sportskeeda, the 27-year-old expressed his joy. “It is a big opportunity for me to have been chosen by the Indian management to bowl to star Indian batsmen in the nets. Playing for India is every budding cricketer’s dream, but to have even earned this opportunity means a lot to me.”
However, this was not the first time that Choudhary bowled to the Indian batsmen in the nets. He was also roped in during the New Zealand series, before the Kanpur and Kolkata Tests, to help Virat Kohli and co. counter Trent Boult's swing.
Last week, it was reported that the Indian management had asked Choudhary to bowl to the Indian batsmen in the nets in order to help them counter the threat of Mitchell Starc. However, the lanky pacer said he was never informed of the fact that he was preparing the batsmen for the world’s best left-arm pacer in particular.
“I got to know from the news that I was preparing the batsmen for Mitchell Starc but nobody from the management told me that. I look upon Starc as my icon.”
“Maybe the assumptions were triggered by the few similarities between Starc and I. We share an almost similar height and action, but then again, two bowlers' bowling actions are never totally the same,” he explained.
It came as no surprise when the 27-year-old disclosed that Kohli was the only batsman he could not dismiss in the nets. “I have bowled to almost all batsmen, both before the New Zealand series and now, but it was only Kohli whose wicket I failed to take,” he said.
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When asked about the experience of sharing the nets with some big names, Choudhary said that all the players were very friendly and warm towards him.
“The Indian players are very friendly. They treated me like a part of the team and not as an intruder who came to just bowl in the nets. They shared their experiences with me and I think there has been no better place for me to learn than this.”
This was not the first time that the Indian management employed an innovative practice technique. Earlier, they had made use of another unconventional practice technique, in which adjacent to the match strips were placed two plastic stumps – off and leg stump.
On top of the off-stump was attached a square box in which a circular shooter’s target was drawn. Exactly six inches above the off-stump, the “Bull’s Eye” was located. Umesh Yadav, and Ishant Sharma were monitored by coach Anil Kumble as they tried to get their line right. But it was Ravichandran Ashwin who hit the box with a delivery which turned back sharply.
Another innovation was seen during the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh, where the Indian team made use of a 10-foot mannequin resembling a batsman. The quicks were told to pitch deliveries on a particular length.
When Aniket was asked to name a bowler who helped him with his technique, he singled out Mohammad Shami, and also acknowledged Rajasthan captain Pankaj Singh.
“During the New Zealand tour, I spoke to Mohammad Shami and he gave me some advice. Also, Pankaj Singh is very experienced and his ideas have helped me a lot. Pankaj is like my elder brother.”
Aniket, who loved cricket from his early days, did not have the opportunity to play the sport he loved in school.
“I played basketball in school because we did not have a cricket team. After I returned home from school, I would play cricket inside the house with a light ball and bat.
“When my family realised that cricket was what I eventually wanted, we shifted to Jaipur from Bikaner where I joined the Rajasthan Cricket Academy. Greg Chappell was the director of the academy and getting trained under famous coaches shaped my career.”
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Aniket’s latest stint with the Indian team is getting him plenty of attention from the media. But the bowler is hoping to get noticed by the IPL franchises as well. He is among the many Indian players up for grabs in the 2017 auction scheduled to take place on February 20 in Bangalore. Through Aniket was given a contract by Kings XI Punjab in the 2013 edition, he did not make his debut.
The Central Zone bowler missed out on being a part of the auction pool last year due to a debilitating hamstring injury which prevented him from playing cricket for three months.
“Last year around this time I suffered a hamstring injury and was away from the game for three months. I was just sitting at home, and the thought of being away from the thing I loved the most was mentally destroying me.”
He credited Glenn McGrath for his comeback in the game after the injury. “After three months of rest, I went to the MRF academy for training and they provided me with a physiotherapist. It was there when McGrath sir helped me with my technique and guided me on how to maintain my body fitness and mindset during an injury.”
He also thanked Myluahanan Senthilathan – former cricket and current director and coach at MRF, for playing a major role in building his career.
However, he is back and ready for action this time around. “I bowled at 145kmph and did well in the T20 zonal matches. I hope I am picked in the auctions,” he stated. When asked which team he would like to play for, he quickly said, “RCB. I’d like to play under Kohli’s captaincy.”
Even in the India A vs Bangladesh tour match, the seamer picked up four wickets to put the hosts in a commanding position. Aniket is currently with the Indian team in Pune, and once the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament is completed, he may have to travel with the team to the other venues as well.
Whether or not Aniket finds a place in the tenth edition of the IPL, it is certain that his name is no longer a mystery in the world of cricket.