CHENNAI:There is something called the second-season syndrome in sport. While the phrase, which also refers to as the sophomore slump, doesn’t have a set etymology, it pertains to the downturn in fortunes of an athlete in his second full year at the professional level.
Karun Nair, 23, was in danger of being crowbarred into that category. After a debut Ranji Trophy season in which he cracked three centuries at an average of 61.75 , his developmental curve hired an escalator.
More accolades followed. And, by extension, an IPL gig worth Rs 75 lakh with the Rajasthan Royals ensued. But that was before the 2014-15 domestic season rolled in. And with that, Nair’s diminishing law of returns kicked in hastily.
Three months and nine Ranji matches later, his numbers resembled that of an in-between batsman suffering an existential crisis - 381 runs at 25.40. And it was with those numbers that he went in to bat against TN in the final.
But 872 minutes, 560 balls and 328 runs later, Nair had pulled out an apartment of rabbits from his hat with respect to his batting form.
How did he manage to do it? “To be honest, I was never really feeling out of form,” he begins. “I was getting starts but was not able to convert them into big scores. I was also getting frustrated with myself,” he confesses.
“So the management decided that it was best I take a couple of weeks off. And I listened to them and I came back for the quarterfinals.”
Was there lots of chatter when he was approaching 319, the highest ever individual score previously in a Ranji final? “There were a few whispers here and there. The only time I felt it (319) was when I was unbeaten on 310 after the end of the third day’s play. Lots of people came up to me and I was also determined to cross it somehow,” he says.
Rewind to Nair’s debut season and there was something amusing that happened as he came under the hammer in the IPL auction in 2014. Rajasthan Royals’ mentor, Rahul Dravid, and Mumbai Indians’ counterpart, Anil Kumble, were slugging it for his signature. “I actually followed the entire thing on television and I was happy to see two Indian greats fighting for me (laughs).”
Nair, whose immediate ancestors hail from Chengannur in Kerala, is part of a team that hasn’t lost for 28 games and the conversation naturally shifts to the State’s seeming invincibility.
“There is no big secret or anything. We’re just a close-knit group that plays as a team. We support each other through thick and thin and we’re always there for those who are down. That, I would say, is the USP of the side.”