BENGALURU: From a waiter in 2015 to one of the leading bowlers in Delhi’s pace attack in 2018, Kulwant Khejroliya’s career has been an eventful one. His splendid performances of late — three matches, 12 wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy — are fruits of his labour. He had missed out on six matches of the group stage due to elbow injury but has returned with a bang.
The left-arm pacer reserved his best for the quarterfinal against Haryana, picking up six wickets, including a hat-trick, as Delhi thrashed their neighbours by five wickets on Sunday. If Khejroliya’s six-wicket haul was the talking point in the first half, Gautam Gambhir’s sparkling 72-ball 104 sealed the match in Delhi’s favour. Gambhir has played an important role in helping Khejroliya become the cricketer he is, having spotted him during nets at LB Shastri Academy in Delhi. The southpaw was impressed by his pace, prompting selectors to invite him for state trials.
Like Gambhir, the selectors were also impressed. However, he only made his debut in 2017 in a Vijay Hazare match against Himachal Pradesh, taking three wickets. He has since featured in seven first-class matches (18 wickets), 17 List A games (43) and 13 T20s (16). “I never knew I would come such a long way. My family could not support me financially. After leaving my job as a waiter in Goa, I went home, thinking I would appear in exams.
But I could not study so I lied to my family and ran away and went to Delhi to join a cricket academy. Gambhir and my coach Sanjay Bhardwaj helped me a lot. I was provided with a hostel and my expenses were also taken care of,” said Khejroliya. “When I was at the academy, Gambhir bhaiya used to come there for practice and I used to bowl to him at the nets and he used to tell the coach to look after me as he felt I had the talent to do well.”
On Sunday, he was given the ball when CK Bishnoi and Pramod Chandila were involved in a 100-plus run partnership and he delivered in the first over of his second spell, dismissing both with Amit Mishra being his hat-trick victim at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. “Gambhir bhaiya told me this is an important over and if I can get one wicket also, that would be brilliant. I wanted to bowl stump to stump. There was no plan for the hat-trick ball. I wanted to bowl straight and it worked,” said Khejroliya.