"He hugged me and then asked what exactly am I bowling to the Australians" - Mahesh Pithiya on his interaction with Ravichandran Ashwin 

Mahesh Pithiya
Mahesh Pithiya has been roped in as a net bowler until the second Test in Delhi

Baroda's 21-year-old Mahesh Pithiya received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was roped in by the visiting Australian team for their four-day preparatory camp in Alur. The youngster's bowling action is eerily similar to Ravichandran Ashwin's, prompting the Australian team to secure his services.

Pithiya might not be rich in experience, having only made his first-class debut in late 2022. However, social media reach and word of mouth made his presence aware in the Australian camp. He is still part of the visiting contingent and has traveled to Nagpur as a net bowler.

He also interacted with the Indian team, who are in Nagpur as well ahead of the first Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test.

Speaking about his experience with the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Virat Kohli, Pithiya told PTI:

"Today I got blessings from my idol. I have always wanted to bowl like him. When I met him as he was entering the nets, I touched his feet and sought his blessings. He hugged me and then asked what exactly am I bowling to the Australians. Virat Kohli also smiled at me and gestured thumbs up and wished me luck,"

Revealing that he got the better of Steve Smith on plenty of occasions on the first day of the camp itself, he said:

"Maine pahle din hi Steve Smith ko 5 se 6 baar out kiya thaa nets mein (I had got Smith out at least six times in the nets on first day),"

On the domestic circuit, he has played four first-class matches, claiming eight wickets, and has a solitary T20 appearance to his name as well.

Revealing that he does not have his mind set on the IPL, Pithiya said:

"I have started my journey in Ranji Trophy and I want to focus on my red ball game. I want to cement my place in the Baroda side. I am not thinking about IPL now.
"I don't bowl carrom ball or doosra. My stock ball is off break and another ball that I have myself developed is one that has a bit of backspin in it. But I bowl that in white-ball cricket."

Australia's move to employ Pithiya ahead of the series has received mixed reactions. While some believe it serves as good preparation against a champion bowler on his own turf, others feel that facing spin, and Ashwin in particular has gone to their heads.

"Steve Smith didn't ask me to bowl anything specific" - Mahesh Pithiya

Mahesh Pithiya largely bowled to Steve Smith in the net sessions. Ravichandran Ashwin has got the better of the former Aussie skipper on multiple occasions of late, including dismissing him for a duck in the 2021 Boxing Day Test.

Speaking about his experience working with the Aussies, Pithiya said:

"It has been amazing to work with this Australian side. My job is to mainly bowl to Steve Smith at Australia nets. He didn't ask me to bowl anything specific."

Adding that he received valuable tips from fellow off-spinner Nathan Lyon, he stated:

"Lyon first asked me to show my grip and explain what I do while rolling my fingers. He then explained how I can get more revs (rotation) on the ball and also how my front leg (left) should land. He told me to have confidence in my ability."

India will take on Australia in the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from Thursday, February 9, onwards in Nagpur.

Also Read: ICC reveals nominees for January 2023 Men's Player of the Month; 2 Indian players included

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