CHENNAI: In a span of a few months, Thangarasu Natarajan’s world has turned upside down. His phone has not stopped buzzing since landing in India. There could even be a biopic in the making, capturing his fairytale story of Chinnappampatti to Canberra. In an interview to select media, the southpaw credits the role of Bharat Arun for the success on his maiden international tour. He also spoke about his future aspiration among other things. Excerpts:
Do fans and YouTube channel outlets still crowd outside your home?
They are there everyday. Many come from far away places hoping to meet me. This is something new to me.
How do you view your life in the last few months?
It feels like a dream. I was hoping to get a chance to play in the Indian Premier League. Once I began doing well at the IPL, five months just went past like it. It’s been an unforgettable last few months.
How do you look at the future?
I’m looking to play in all formats and will maintain my workload accordingly. BCCI is making sure I’m managing my workload judiciously.
Where do you think you need to improve?
My focus is on fitness now. If you are aiming to play all three formats, you need to be on top of your fitness.
Tell us about the transformation while playing with the Indian team
There was a lot of support in the dressing room. Never did I feel that I was new. I felt like I had been playing with them for a long time. Players, support staff and coaches made me comfortable. As I spent more time with the Indian team, I started understanding Hindi. I think I’m not shy any more.
The kind of influence bowling coach Bharat Arun has had on you?
I’ve worked with him even at Chemplast (while playing for the TNCA league). In Australia, I worked on numerous areas and his inputs were crucial. He was someone whom I knew well and was able to ask questions freely. He would share his inputs on how to bowl during a particular situation and how one can be more effective. Before every match, we would discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and there was no change to that.
What did Ravi Shastri tell you?
Before I made my India debut, he said, ‘do whatever you’ve been doing so far but do it with utmost confidence. Do it daringly.’ The motivation one gets from him is enormous.
IPL to Test series… your most cherished wicket?
I don’t know how to answer. Before the IPL I had mentioned that I’d love to take the wickets of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, MS Dhoni... when I did that, I was very happy. In Australia, I felt great bowling on those wickets because they were so conducive to pace bowling. The T20 series is still in my memory and the way my teammates supported me made the whole experience special.
What does the team want you to improve on?
They want me to work on my endurance. They seem to be happy with my skills. Red-ball cricket is a test of endurance.
Do you think you need to increase your pace too?
Definitely. From IPL to the limited-overs series in Australia, I was clocking 135 kmph consistently. The pace, however, reduced a bit in the Test. I think it’s because of endurance.
How do you manage the workload?
This is the first time I played for six months at a stretch. During the lockdown, I worked on fitness. It was only due to the break I got during the pandemic that I was able to manage my workload better with good food and proper training.
Being away from the family for six months, in a bio-bubble, for the first time... How did you cope with it, mentally?
When IPL was announced, we knew we would be in quarantine for six days and then play in a bio-secure bubble. So, I was mentally prepared for that. Initial two weeks were hard. After that, we were allowed to train, meet teammates within the restricted area. I then got used to the bubble life. Because I knew what was coming, I handled the situation better, mentally.
Will you play the Vijay Hazare Trophy for TN if given the go-ahead by the BCCI?
If BCCI gives the nod I will certainly play the one-dayers. In fact, there was a request placed for me to feature in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s but then the BCCI asked me to take a break since I have been playing non-stop for the last 6 months.
With India playing two Tests in Chennai, do you miss not being in the squad?
Definitely. But I do understand that it's important to take a break. Given that I did not spend time with the family in the last six months and my newborn now, I am okay with it.
What are your plans for the next couple of weeks?
I've been given a training schedule for the next three weeks. I will be coming to Chennai and start training.