CHENNAI : It’s been eight months since February. But not so for Himanshu Rana. “It hasn’t been that long,” remarks the Haryana right-hander.He’d be justified for holding that moment close to his heart, considering that February 3 was the day when he and 15 other jubilant youngsters posed with the U-19 World Cup. Even though the batsman got to bat only once in New Zealand (his other match was won by India’s openers), Rana considers the outing as the most valuable of his career. “I got to learn so many things, both from Rahul (Dravid) sir and the likes of Prithvi (Shaw), Kamlesh (Nagarkoti) and others.”
Even Rana’s Instagram account is peppered with “throwback” hash-tagged photos from that period. “We’re still in touch, but they don’t get as much time to reply as before.”That “they” wasn’t said with envy or resentment, even if one might be tempted to think so. After all, his only full World Cup outing was also the match (against Australia) when Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi sent down 140kmph-plus thunderbolts, making the fraternity and IPL teams take notice. No cheques in crores came Rana’s way.
“Rahul sir had told us that auctions happen every year, but World Cup doesn’t. So, it doesn’t matter. Even if I didn’t get that many games, being a part of that squad brought expectations. In the last few months, I’ve been trying to live up to that; training, playing in district fixtures, and keeping myself fit with a proper diet.”
Rana isn’t the only U-19 World Cup winner intent on not slipping through the cracks, a career pattern that many a previous India colt has been through. Ishan Porel, too, was alongside him on that day of joy. He too didn’t feature in as many matches as he would have wanted, and he too was among those who did not receive IPL contracts.
A foot injury limited the Bengal pacer to only four World Cup outings, one of which was a four-wicket burst against Pakistan in the semifinal. That was perhaps irony manifesting itself, as that performance came just two days after the IPL auctions.“Who knows? Had that happened a few days earlier, things would have been different. I was expecting a contract, but it didn’t happen. It doesn’t matter. That time in New Zealand has taught me a lot, especially managing my body and dealing with injuries. I spent time at National Cricket Academy after coming back working on fitness and delivery stride. That has helped a lot.”
Compared to Rana, Porel has seen fate send a few more opportunities his way. He has been part of the Board President’s XI against touring sides twice, other than being selected for Duleep Trophy. “Everyone wants to play for India. Those who go on to do so are the ones who make chances count, which I couldn’t. That’s what I’m looking to do now. I just want to go out there and keep taking wickets for my team.”