Imagine being able to bowl to your idol on a regular basis. If you want to know what it feels like, just ask Ajay Krishna, a young fast bowler making waves in the ongoing Tamil Nadu Premier League. You'll find the fanboy within him jumping with joy.
A regular feature in the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) setup as a net bowler for a couple of seasons, Krishna got the opportunity to bowl to MS Dhoni himself. For an upcoming fast bowler who wishes to make it big in the sport, that's nothing short of the stuff of dreams, right?
From Kerala to Tamil Nadu via CSK - the journey of Ajay Krishna
It's been a roller-coaster journey for the skiddy fast bowler, who is currently plying his trade for the Ruby Trichy Warriors in the TNPL. He had quite the beginning, a good part of which can be attributed to the learnings he received from his days in the CSK nets.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Krishna dived into how his journey with the sport began, the man responsible for him being picked as a net bowler for the Super Kings and of course, what it was like to stand beside Thala himself.
Q. Let's start from where it all began. Cricket and fast bowling, how did they come about?
Ajay Krishna: To be honest, my interest in cricket started late. Everyone starts at the age of 14 or 15 but I started in the last year of Under-19 cricket actually. I was more into football during my school days, but when I was 19, I thought I could give it a try in cricket.
Q. How did you bag your gig with the Chennai Super Kings as a net bowler?
Ajay Krishna: I was practicing in Bangalore at the Karnataka Youth Cricket Academy. That’s where I used to practice for the last three to four yeto They took me to a workshop under Lakshmipathy Balaji sir which was happening in Chennai. He was CSK's bowling coach. He saw my bowling and was impressed. That’s how I got picked for Chennai Super Kings as an extra bowler.
Q. So what was it like when you walked into the CSK camp for the first time?
Ajay Krishna: It would be better if I told you how I met the legend himself, MS Dhoni. The first couple of days he didn’t come for practice. So I thought fine I’ll get to meet him soon. I was waiting so eagerly to meet the legend. I was on the ground warming up with my teammates. There were a couple of other net bowlers as well. We were a group of about 10 or 11. We were warming up together, playing football when I saw MS Dhoni walking down with his kitbag on his shoulder.
I remember that from the moment he entered the ground until he reached the pitch in the centre, I was simply watching him walk (grins). I was like, "Okay fine, now I’m finally standing literally next to MS Dhoni."
It was a different feeling. It hits you in a different spot. From the first time I saw him, I would have seen him about 30-40 times. But for the 40th time as well, the excitement level was the same as the first time. That’s a different feeling. It’s out this world.
Q. Do you recollect your first conversation with Dhoni?
Ajay Krishna: On the first day, by God’s grace I was bowling to MS Dhoni himself in the very first session. He came to me at the non-striker’s end and said "you’re bowling well and quite fast as well. Where are you from?" I said I’m from Kerala.
What was surprising was that after the session, the one who was managing the net bowlers came to us. He called me separately and said: “Ajay, just be prepared. Most of the days you’ll be bowling to MS itself because he wants to play you in the nets.” I felt that was really exciting. I said "Yes sir I’ll be ready." I feel really lucky to be a part of such a great team and learn something from the legend himself.
Q. Were you able to sleep that night after this experience?
Ajay Krishna: (laughs) To be honest, I spoke to my parents for a very long time (that night). I don’t usually speak to them for that long, but that day I repeatedly kept talking about how I met the team for the first time and how I was feeling.
I know it’s silly but whenever I see MS Dhoni walking down, he has a pair of white shoes that never get dirty. My eyes always catch those shoes - it’s very white. Every time he enters the ground it’s a different class.
Q. Any particular word of advice from MS Dhoni that sticks with you?
Ajay Krishna: Not particularly for my bowling, but last year we were practicing in the UAE. Dubai wickets are generally on the slower side. I didn’t even have to ask him, he himself came and told me. He was at the non-striker’s end and he asked me how I was feeling. I told him I’m feeling good but I have a doubt whether I’m bowling too short.
He said, "no you’re not bowling too short, the batters might play off the back foot even if you bowl a full-length ball. You’re bowling well for this wicket, just keep bowling like this. If the wicket is on the flatter side, you can always bowl at the stumps." Whether I bowl on a slower wicket or a flatter one, I always remember this.
Q. Any bowler whose brains he has picked in the CSK camp?
I was very much interested in the bowling of Shardul Thakur because everyone knows he’s a game-changer. Even though he’s not someone who bowls very quick around 145 kmph, whenever he comes into the attack he picks up wickets for the team. He was always there as a game-changer for the team. He was performing with the ball as well as the bat.
Since last year, I have been trying to learn how the slower one works for Dwayne Bravo. Everyone knows that it has been his ‘Vajrayudha’ (weapon) in the T20 tournaments. I just wanted to learn the slower one from the best bowlers who can bowl that. I went and spoke to him about how to release the ball for the off-cutter. He was kind enough to take five to 10 minutes to explain it properly. He even showed it with the ball and I felt great.
Q. Mukesh Choudhary, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana - all of them graduated from net bowlers to the main squad of CSK. What would it mean to Ajay Krishna if he’s next in line?
Ajay Krishna: It’s something which everyone looks forward to. When you’ve selected something as your career, you always want to achieve success in it, right? For me, being a part of CSK will be like a dream come true. Being a part of CSK as a net bowler, if you graduate to the team next year, what else can you ask for as a player? That’s one of the best things you can achieve. It will be a game-changer for me.
Also Read: "Every time you do something good, he comes and tells you" - Ajay Krishna on picking Murali Vijay's brains in the TNPL
Get IPL 2023 Live Score along with Points Table & Schedule Updates at Sportskeeda.