Vidwath Kaverappa remained placid in his celebrations after dismissing Lankesh KS and Codanda Ajit Karthik in the Maharaja Trophy final between Hubli Tigers and Mysuru Warriors.
The Tigers beat the Karun Nair-led side by eight runs to emerge the champions of the second season. Perhaps, Kaverappa wanted to wait for the final result to arrive before letting himself loose.
Although Manvanth Kumar L bowled a tremendous last over to defend 12 runs, Vidwath Kaverappa was the one to shift the momentum of the game towards Hubli.
When Mysuru needed 51 runs from 30 balls with seven wickets left, Lankesh and Karthik, both with a strike rate of over 140 in the tournament, threatened to take the game away with a six each.
The 16th over bowled by Kaverappa piled pressure on the Mysuru duo. The Hubli bowler bowled wide and full to the left-handed Lankesh while relying on the short balls against Karthik.
Four runs from five balls, including a couple of wides, forced Lankesh to go swing his willow. However, the southpaw sliced it towards MB Darshan at sweeper cover.
Vidwath Kaverappa persisted with the short ball ploy against Karthik, this time pitched at off-stump, and MB Darshan was once again the man to complement the Karnataka pacer. Karthik’s attempted pull couldn’t find the distance and the Warriors were reduced to 174 for 6, and subsequently stuttered.
Kaverappa finished the tournament with 10 wickets at an economy rate of 7.70. Speaking to Sportskeeda exclusively ahead of the Maharaja Trophy 2023, the right-arm pacer had said:
“It (Maharaja Trophy) helped me a lot actually because I didn’t have the experience in white-ball cricket prior to that, especially in T20s. That helped me understand the T20 format like how it is and when is it you need to go for a yorker or a slower ball. It helped me to read the game accurately. I used those experiences in the Mushtaq Ali tournament.”
Vidwath Kaverappa's cricketing journey started in India's hockey hotbed
Vidwath Kaverappa hails from Karnataka’s Coorg (Kodagu) district, a region well known for producing some of India’s greatest hockey players. He also played for his school’s handball team. It was only his father’s influence and his watching cricket regularly that convinced him to pursue the sport professionally at the age of 10.
“I always liked cricket and wanted to be a cricketer. It’s just that it (Coorg) is a place where most of the people play hockey. Cricket is not a mainstream sport over there. So all I used to do was play all the other sports in school to keep my fitness up and come back home and play cricket with my dad and sister. To pursue cricket professionally, I came to Bangalore once I finished my 10th Standard,” the Coorg-born Karnataka player said.
The journey from Coorg to Bangalore started with the intent for education but soon, ambitions of cricket emerged. Vidwath joined the Presidency College accompanied by a few other Coorg locals.
Vidhwath Kaverappa’s father is a coffee planter, not surprising as Coorg is known for its coffee plantations. Nevertheless, there were limited resources for Kaverappa to manage his college expenses, and arranging basic sports equipment like shoes was a bit challenging.
However, there was no lack of kindness as one of the senior boys at Presidency College willingly lent a helping hand to a determined Kaverappa. The talented youngster was overwhelmed by the gesture and put in extra yards into his practice sessions.
At the age of 16, Kaverappa attended the Karnataka State Cricket Association’s (KSCA) talent-hunt program in Mangaluru in 2015. It was that moment when Samuel Jayraj, who was KL Rahul’s coach, saw something in a young Vidwath Kaverappa and then decided to take him under his wing.
“The first time I represented Karnataka at U-19, that was my first breakthrough, a good competitive cricket. That’s when I got to know what are the demands of higher level cricket, what is it that I lag and what is it that I can improve so that I can make it to the bigger stages,” Kaverappa said on getting his breakthrough at the competitive stage.
The talented seamer lacks genuine pace but relies more on the accuracy of his line and lengths. He struggled to develop an apt bowling action in the initial days until Samuel Jayraj stepped in.
It only got better once he made his Ranji Trophy debut in March 2022 against Puducherry. Sreenath Aravind, the then-bowling coach of Karnataka, tweaked changes in the rookie player’s action with the focus being on the release point and the run-up.
Speaking about the learnings after making his first-class debut last year, the Karnataka fast bowler mentioned:
“One thing was you need to have good control over your skill, whether it is the outswing or inswing or coming and hitting the top of the stump length. You need to have a lot more patience and clarity about the game. You can’t just barge in every ball and try to get a magic delivery every time. For that specific reason, you need to have that set of control over your skills.”
Success in domestic cricket
Vidwath Kaverappa had a tremendous domestic season in 2022-23 that got him further recognition. He claimed 18 wickets in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy at an economy rate of 6.36. Only Punjab’s Siddarth Kaul picked one wicket more than Kaverappa.
The remarkable show in SMAT helped the Karnataka player to earn his first deal in the Indian Premier League as Punjab Kings bought him for his base price of ₹20 lakh at the IPL 2022 auction. However, he didn’t play a single match this past season.
“It was a very nice experience going and getting a chance to mingle with all the top players of the world. Matured a lot when I came back. I didn’t get a chance to play but got myself better and be ready for the upcoming season,” the 24-year-old mentioned about his experience in the PBKS squad.
“I just kept working over there on what I had to do with the white ball. I was just talking to Nathan Ellis and Kagiso Rabada about certain stuff at what point of time what can you do. Just normal talks what fast bowlers have,” he added.
White-ball cricket in modern times has a lot of avenues for aspiring cricketers to expand. However, Vidwath Kaverappa calls the Ranji Trophy (India’s premier red-ball tournament) his favourite format and wants to augment at this level along the line.
Senior pacer Prasidh Krishna suffered a lumbar spine injury and hence wasn’t available for the season. It paved the way for Kaverappa to play a longer season in the Mayank Agarwal-led squad. The boy from Coorg claimed 30 scalps in eight matches at an average of 20.43, including two five-wicket hauls.
“Rather than taking it as a scary situation, it was an opportunity to improve and make a mark for yourself. You are playing in the Ranji Trophy semi-final against a pretty side like Saurashtra, you have to pull up your socks and help your team win,” he said on playing the renowned red-ball tournament.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to pick those 20 wickets, else it’s of no use no matter who you have in your team. It was a nice experience and I learnt a lot from the Saurashtra game,” he added.
Vidwath Kaverappa finished as Karnataka’s second-highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy 2022-23 after Vyshak Vijaykumar (31) and Krishnappa Gowtham (31). The youngster was named in the South Zone squad for the Duleep Trophy 2023, which kicked off BCCI’s domestic season of 2023-24.
He didn’t fail to impress with his accurate lengths in the zonal tournament, accounting for 15 dismissals in two games at 11.93. The 24-year-old was adjudged the Player of the Match as well as the Player of the Series after the Duleep Trophy final between South Zone and West Zone.
South Zone were bundled out for 213, a below-par score in the first innings, and it was a herculean task to gain a lead in front of a star-studded West Zone batting order. One that comprised Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suryakumar Yadav, Priyank Panchal and Sarfaraz Khan.
Prithvi Shaw (65) fired with the bat at the front, playing all the breezy shots in his arsenal, to keep the South Zone bowlers on their toes. Kaverappa led the astounding comeback for the home side by simply hitting the right areas on the deck.
He dismissed the likes of Harvik Desai, Shaw, Suryakumar, Sarfaraz, and Pujara to register his career-best figures of 7 for 53 as West Zone were bowled out for 146, conceding a 61-run lead in the first innings. The Hanuma Vihari-led team eventually won by 75 runs to avenge the defeat of the previous year’s final.
“It was just to keep it simple from the semi-final what we did (against North Zone). To come and keep hitting those areas because we knew what kind of batting line-up they had. Apart from Pujara, everybody likes to play their shots over there. Nobody has spent less time on the ground. We knew they would make a mistake and that’s what we capitalised on. We just kept it simple on our plans,” Vidwath spoke about South Zone’s success with the ball.
Speaking about the short ball ploy used by him and Vyshak in order to particularly test Prithvi Shaw, Kaverappa said:
“Yeah, he played some quality shots. But we didn’t mind those shots because he was hitting the ones we wanted him to play. We knew he is good in that (in his attacking style of play). Also if we were supposed to get any help from the wicket then it was that (short) length itself and that paid off.”
Vidwath Kaverappa shares a great camaraderie with fellow state young pacer Vyshak. The duo ensures to give each other healthy competition on the pitch.
During Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy game against Chattisgarh at the start of 2023, Kaverappa picked up 5 for 67 in the first innings. Vyshak followed it with 5/59 in the second innings. It was an encore by the duo against North Zone at the M.Chinnaswamy in the Duleep Trophy semi-final.
While Kaverappa scalped 5 for 28 in the first innings, Vyshak registered figures of 5 for 76 in the second innings as North Zone were bowled out for 198 and 211 respectively.
“Bowling with Vyshak is always fun. He is the best when he is fired up and running in hard to bowl fast. It’s always nice to have a (bowling) partner who is coming hard at the batsman from the other end,” Kaverappa said.
"You can keep it tight from here to wait for the batsman to commit mistakes. If you see that when I got the fifer in the first, he got it in the second innings. We have this good relationship on and off the field. So it’s nice to keep bowling with him,” he added.
Rich legacy of Karnataka cricket to live up to
The duo of Vidwath and Vyshak, along with the revamped Vasuki Koushik, is a pace bowling force to be reckoned with. The triumvirate of Karnataka’s current pace attack is expected to carry forward the legacy of R Vinay Kumar, Sreenath Arvind, and Abhimanyu Mithun.
That pace attack was instrumental in Karnataka’s back-to-back trebles (2013-14 & 2014-15) in domestic cricket.
“Yeah, those are big boots to fill. Those guys have all the achievements and hats off to them. They are legends of the game. We are up for the challenge. We will see in the future if we can fill their boots or not,” the 24-year-old responded on the question of emulating the success of the former players.
Vidwath Kaverappa’s aim is to win all the trophies irrespective of which team he represents. He already has won the Maharaja Trophy and will next strive to win the major domestic tournaments, especially his beloved Ranji Trophy.