Sharing the dressing room with Sachin Tendulkar is every cricketer’s dream. And the Indian Premier League is a rare forum for budding cricketers to interact with Tendulkar, captain of CLT20 2011 title-winners, Mumbai Indians.
Ahead of the 2012 edition, MI has followed the performance of several promising youngsters on the Indian domestic circuit and zeroed in on junior cricketers Apoorv Wankhade, Sujit Nayak, Rahul Shukla, Sushant Marathe and Kuldeep Yadav.
Aware of the opportunity presented to them, the youngsters are eagerly awaiting the training process for a chance to gain valuable tips from the Little Master, other senior team members and coaches and mentors like Shaun Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Robin Singh.
After a good domestic season, Mumbai’s wicketkeeper-batsman Sushant Marathe is now looking forward to making the most of the IPL. “Playing for a team like Mumbai Indians is a great feeling. They are the most widely followed team in the whole of IPL. The prospect of sharing the dressing room with the likes of Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh and all these great players is very exciting.
“I am really looking forward to it. Not just playing in the IPL [but] also training with [Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga and others] before the IPL. The IPL is going to be a great learning experience for me. [...].”
“I have not interacted with Sachin Tendulkar too much. He used to come and practice a few times in the Ranji team. When you are around someone like Sachin, it is better to just shut up […] rather than ask questions which might turn out to be silly. Just by observing him in and around the dressing room, and the way he goes about things, you can learn a lot.”
Speaking about his other team-mates and coaches, Marathe said, “I’m going to be open to learning from any possible source, for example, from great bowlers like Lasith [Malinga] and Harbhajan Singh [...] I have played against Harbhajan Singh once and I could see that he is a superb influence on youngsters [...]”
Marathe’s Mumbai teammate Rohit Sharma is an important cog in the MI line-up. “Rohit, besides being my teammate, has been a great friend over the years. He is a great batsman in T20 cricket I am sure I will get to learn a lot just hanging out with him and talking to him,” he added.
Left-hand middle-order bat Sujit Nayak too is excited about being part of the Mumbai Indians squad. And is there something that he’s looking to discuss with the cricketing legend? “I don’t know what I will say to Tendulkar. [I probably] won’t be able to say anything,” Nayak confessesd.
“I have had a few interactions with the local support staff. I haven’t actually had a word with the international staff [but] I am looking forward to it. I will definitely work on my weaknesses.
“I have been watching players like Harbhajan Singh and others. It is definitely is a proud moment for me to be amongst them, share the dressing room with them. I will try to learn as much as I can.”
Right-hand batsman Apporv Wankhade from Vidharbha echoed Nayak’s sentiment. The attacking batsman is looking forward to getting some batting tips from West Indies T20 sensation, Keiron Pollard. “I also like to play big shots a lot so the kids here call me Pollard. Playing with him would help me learn a lot about hitting the ball and playing in different situations.
“This exposure will help me in other formats as well,” Wankhade added.
An Under-19 discovery, Kuldeep Yadav started out as a medium-pacer but later turned to left-arm spin. The Uttar Pradesh lad’s stock ball, the ‘chinaman’ delivery, could well work as a potent weapon this IPL season. “There is lot of excitement to play for the IPL. I’ll get an opportunity to play with the legends and will get to learn a lot from the seniors, from Sachin paaji and fielding coach Jonty Rhodes,” the youngster hoped.