Highly-rated Baroda all-rounder Atit Sheth seemed set to be snapped up during the IPL 2023 auction after multiple impressive performances in domestic cricket. He also got his maiden India A call-up against Bangladesh and it seemed like he could well be a part of a bidding war.
However, to the surprise of many, Atit Sheth went unsold in the auction. Given his numbers in domestic cricket, it seems a bit baffling that no Indian Premier League team took a punt on him at last month's auction.
In 28 first-class matches, Atit Sheth has close to a 1000 runs and has also picked up 88 wickets. While most cricketers could have been disheartened that such numbers didn't lead to an IPL contract, Sheth has remained pretty positive.
He opened up on the importance of domestic cricket in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
Excerpts from Sportskeeda's exclusive interview of Atit Sheth
Q: It often happens that during age-group cricket, budding cricketers choose a primary skill and then tend to overlook the other facet of their game, be it batting or bowling. So, what motivated you personally to make sure that you keep on working on both departments?
Atit Sheth: I loved both batting and bowling and concentrated equally on both ever since I began playing cricket.
Until the U-16 level, I was primarily a batter and used to bowl whenever needed. But then, from the U-19 level to then for the senior team, I became primarily a bowler who could bat.
Personally, I ensured that I never let go of one facet of my game to develop the other.
Baroda has produced a number of all-rounders for India like Irfan Bhai (Irfan Pathan), Yusuf Bhai (Yusuf Pathan), Hardik Pandya, and Krunal Pandya. So I always wanted to ensure that I don’t lose my batting ability while focusing on my bowling and vice versa.
Q: You spoke about the number of all-rounders that Baroda has produced for India and you have also had the experience of playing alongside them. So how have their inputs helped you develop as a cricketer?
Atit Sheth: When I came into the Baroda team, there were quite a few seniors around and Irfan bhai was leading the team. The presence of the seniors helped me mature quickly and understand how I can best contribute to my team.
Whenever I needed any help in bowling, I used to talk to Irfan Bhai and Munaf Bhai (Munaf Patel). They used to guide me about different things like adapting to bowling with white ball and then in the Ranji Trophy with the red ball.
Irfan Bhai captained Baroda for the first two seasons when I was with the team and played a huge role in my early development.
Q: Any advice from the Pandya brothers that you have tried to apply in your preparations?
Atit Sheth: Later when the senior players retired, Hardik and Krunal helped me further by giving some small but crucial pieces of advice every time we practiced or played matches together.
Since both of them are international cricketers, it has always helped me understand what’s needed to take my game with both bat and ball to the level that’s acceptable in international cricket.
They still keep giving me inputs. And now with Hardik being the Indian captain, it helps me even more to understand the quality of cricket that needs to be played to reach the next level.
Q: Talk to us about your quickfire 51 not out off just 16 balls against Chattisgarh last year. How did that knock impact your confidence as a batter? Talk us through your thought process before and after that innings.
Atit Sheth: Before that knock, it wasn’t that I didn’t use to contribute with the bat. But there were a lot of quality all-rounders in the Baroda team so I never really got enough deliveries to make an impact.
Many players from our team that year featured for India and that gave me a chance to prove my mettle with the bat by batting a bit higher. The situation of the game was also such that the team needed a quickfire cameo from me and I felt really good that I could deliver.
That innings was really the turning point for me as I began to get even more recognition as a seam-bowling all-rounder.
Q: After your sensational 87 against Nagaland when Baroda were in a bit of trouble, captain Ambati Rayudu came out and called you a future star. How huge a part does such a compliment from such a stalwart play in boosting your confidence?
Atit Sheth: Rayudu Bhai (Ambati Rayudu) was back with Baroda and I played a couple of handy knocks in his presence. So to get such a compliment from such a stalwart is a huge confidence booster for me.
It really makes me believe that I can deliver at the highest level and that belief is then reflected in my batting and bowling.
Q: Despite the highs of a good domestic season followed by a maiden India A call-up, you didn't quite get the IPL contract. Did it hurt more particularly because there were so many around you praising you but you still didn't get the opportunity? How do you remain mentally strong during such a phase?
Atit Sheth: Definitely every cricketer wants to play in the IPL and every year we do hope to get picked in the auction after doing well in the trials. It's disappointing to not get picked, but you can’t dwell on it for a long time as it is just a stepping stone that motivates you to work harder in domestic cricket.
For me, not getting picked in the IPL is an added motivation to do even better in the next season. So, I don’t let any disappointment affect my game and I focus on how I can focus for the domestic season.
Q: Describe your experience with the India A team on the tour to Bangladesh to play their A side.
Atit Sheth: The entire tour itself was a memorable one for me because when you start playing Ranji Trophy cricket, you dream of doing well and climbing the ladder to first get into the India A team and then eventually the Indian team.
Playing for India A was really special because it is almost just a level below playing for the national team. It was also brilliant for me to share a dressing room with seniors like Pujara Bhai (Cheteshwar Pujara), Saini Bhai (Navdeep Saini), and Umesh Bhai (Umesh Yadav).
The experiences that they share about how they prepare for big matches and tournaments is very handy.
Q: Any particular moment about the tour that you will cherish?
Atit Sheth: My first wicket for India A will always be special for me because that was the wicket of the opposition captain. So, although I got just one wicket in that innings, it will still be a memorable one and something that I will cherish for a long time.
Q: How motivating is it after seeing how serious India have been to play a seam-bowling all-rounder instead of two spinners away from home? Does that give seam-bowling all-rounders like you a huge uplift with respect to the chances of getting into the Indian team?
Atit Sheth: Teams nowadays have started to use a bowling all-rounder at No. 8 in Test cricket and India have also been doing the same, especially away from home.
This is really motivating for seam-bowling all-rounders like myself who have been playing domestic cricket for a while as there is a real belief that consistent performances can get us closer to the Indian team.
Being an all-rounder always gives the team that balance and that makes me feel good about myself that I have continued to work on both batting and bowling and that I have a genuine chance to be a contender for that spot.
Q: Do you feel sad that perhaps some seam-bowling all-rounders got more recognition than you because they played in the IPL?
Atit Sheth: Whoever plays for India definitely deserves to get that cap because of the hard work that they have done. But definitely playing in the IPL and doing well plays a role in fast-tracking them to the national team.
So generally there are players who are doing well in domestic cricket but sometimes go under the radar as they haven’t played in the IPL. They sometimes have to toil harder.
Q: Lastly, how crucial do you feel is playing consistent domestic cricket if the ultimate goal is to play Test cricket for India?
Atit Sheth: I look at it positively because I feel playing more and more domestic cricket makes you that much more ready to represent India.
Players like Jaydev Unadkat already know what needs to be done to pick wickets because they have performed so well in domestic cricket for so long. I also feel domestic cricket provides you with a tough challenge as sometimes as a seam bowler you still need to pick wickets on a flat track or a rank turner.
Such challenges prepare you to face all kinds of situations. So, playing a lot of domestic cricket definitely helps in preparing a player to perform at the level needed in international cricket.