DINDIGUL: ON Wednesday, after the Ruby Trichy Warriors hit yet another trough in the Tamil Nadu Premier League courtesy a six-wicket loss against the Chepauk Super Gillies, it was K Bharath Shankar who turned up for the former to face the media. “I didn’t shoulder my responsibility properly,” was the opener’s reply to a query directed at the day’s defeat.
“I’ve had good starts before and here as well, but I haven’t been able to convert. I want to do that and stay till the end for the team.” Those words may seem placatory at face value, but two days was all that was needed to make them seem anything but. On Friday, against Karaikudi Kaalai, the 23-year-old lived up to what he had said. Despite his team losing the highest chase in TNPL history, Bharath carried his bat to register a 68-ball 112.
“I’ve been playing with the other two (Baba Aparajith and Washington Sundar) since my school days, and I’ve always regarded them as trend-setters. Whenever those guys did well, I would tell myself, ‘I want to be that good, too’. Plus, I was putting too much pressure on myself. So I decided that I’m going out there and playing each ball to merit,” explained the Velachery resident, placed second in the batting chart (265, strike-rate 127.40). Dealing with mental blocks was not the only challenge.
During a practice game before the first edition of TNPL, the righthander picked up what he assumed was a niggle in his back. “It kept becoming worse and hindered my batting. I didn’t realise its seriousness before the end of the tournament.” What felt like an annoying physical inconvenience turned out to be a disc tear in his spine, which kept Bharath out for a year. “I couldn’t move around much. But I guess it was a blessing in disguise. I devoted the time to clear arrears that had piled up due to my sporting commitments (he took up B Tech in IT at SRM University).”
It took the combined guidance of Rajamani Prabhu, currently fitness in-charge of Pro Kabaddi League side Tamil Thalaivas, and Gillies physiotherapist Karthik Dasan to get Bharath back on track. “Treatment at Karthik’s clinic was what got me back to normalcy. Training under Rajamani helped regain strength. But, (RI) Palani sir (TNCA joint secretary) asked me to turn out for Grand Slam Cricket Club. I owe all three.”