CHENNAI: Baba Aparajith has been having a ball in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy. In a very literal sense, that is. The 25-year-old right-hander has been consistent with the bat in his seven outings. No single-digit scores yet. Four fifties. One hundred. Bragging rights for being the tournament’s current top-scorer (439), with an average of 109.75 to boot.
And sitting atop this big cake of his is his best List A bowling outing of 4/39, which came against Railways just two days ago. Mind you, this comes from a part-time off-spinner whose first-class bowling average is greater than his batting one.
“Before the start of this season, I was told by our captain (Dinesh Karthik) that I’d have a bigger role to play with the ball. So I put in more work on my bowling at the nets. I wanted to be ready,” remarked Aparajith.
And he’s been ready, all right. That four-for (against Railways) wasn’t just one big flash in his pan. Aparajith has been going toe to toe with the other regular spinners in his team. He’s neck to neck with R Sai Kishore (seven wickets), and one behind Murugan Ashwin. Not only has Karthik trusted Aparajith to send down a good chunk of overs (he’s bowled seven or more on four occasions), the skipper has also handed him the new ball within the first powerplay (against Railways and Bengal).
“That was a challenge for me, since I’ve never really bowled upfront,” observed Aparajith. “I guess keeping things simple worked for me whenever I bowled. It’s just about hitting the right line and lengths, and that’s pretty much what I did. Also, the time I’ve spent bettering my fitness over the last few months has been beneficial.”
It isn’t only his bowling which has seen an upswing courtesy the time Aparajith has spent with dumbbells and on treadmills. All that effort has seen him literally run to the top of the scorers’ list this time. Only a fourth of his tally, 25.06 per cent to be exact, have come through hits across and over the ropes.
“My work on fitness has definitely helped in this. Most of the times I’ve gone out to the middle when a little bit of rebuilding was needed. Manipulating the field is a very good way to not only take pressure off yourself, but exert it on the opposition. So, whenever I haven’t received too many bad balls, I’ve concentrated on keeping the scoreboard ticking.”
That ticking may not be as ominous as the one of a primed time-bomb, but Madhya Pradesh will ostensibly treat Aparajith with a good bit of wariness come Saturday.