Childhood coach, family watch Bharat's debut from stands in Nagpur
Coach J Krishna Rao also said the India debut will motivate other players from the state to take extra effort and fulfil their dream of making a place in the national team.
Published: 09th February 2023 11:43 AM | Last Updated: 09th February 2023 11:45 AM | A+A A-
NAGPUR: As his wards thrashed hosts Goa by an inning and 40 runs at the Goa Cricket Association Academy, Porvorim on Wednesday in the ongoing Col CK Nayudu U-25 Tournament, coach J Krishna Rao was a happy man but lost in his thoughts. Even as the players were celebrating their triumph, Rao was busy on his phone searching for a flight to Nagpur.
It was going to be a huge moment for him and he didn't want to miss it. Eventually, he didn't. He not only reached the Orange City in time but also watched his ward Kona Srikar Bharat being handed the Test cap from the North Stand at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha on Day 1 of the first match between India and Australia, which got underway here on Thursday.
"We were waiting for it for a long time. It was a very proud moment for me to watch him being handed the Test cap by none other than the longest format legend (Cheteshwar) Pujara from the stands," Rao told TNIE.
Once he settled down after all the initial excitement and jubilation, Bharat in no time gave him another happy moment, the very first ball of the second over of the match. India pacer Mohammed Siraj's delivery swung in for the left-hand Australian batter Usman Khawaja and hit his pad. The umpire was not impressed but India skipper Rohit Sharma immediately rushed towards the wicketkeeper Bharat to seek his opinion. Apparently convinced by Bharat's observations in a couple of seconds, Rohit asked for a review which finally yielded the hosts their first wicket.
Rao would love to stay back and enjoy the Test as he is sure Bharat will give him more reasons to celebrate but he cannot do so. "I will leave tonight as Andhra will be taking on hosts Maharashtra in their next match beginning in Pune on February 12. I have to be with the team," he added.
It's not only Bharat's coach, who is witnessing him donning the India jersey from the stands. His parents, sisters and wife also reached Nagpur to see him in action. Bharat was around nine when Rao took him under his wings. Speaking of his early days at the coaching centre in Visakhapatnam, the coach said, "He was very naughty and used to be noisy. He always used to be busy with some or other things, which also made me scold him at times."
It was not till he turned 19 that Bharat started keeping wickets for his state team regularly. It was Rao who convinced him to do so. Bharat became a regular feature of the India Test squad once Wriddhiman Saha went out of reckoning in early 2022.
However, the presence of Rishabh Pant and his match-winning exploits meant the 29-year-old from Andhra had to wait for his chance. As it turned out, Pant met an accident of late paving the way for Bharat's entry into the playing XI. "Definitely it's a proud moment for the entire Andhra, the state cricket association, players, coaches, and groundsmen. It's a proud moment for each and every one. It has been a long time for all of us," said the coach.
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Rao also said the India debut will motivate other players from the state to take extra effort and fulfil their dream of making a place in the national team.
"It's a motivation for every Andhra player as now they can continue working hard and take their efforts to another level. If Bharat can represent the country, why can't they? Ours is a very small state. If you look at the ratio of Andhra players representing the country, it's very less. This (Bharat's debut) is a huge step forward for the state," signed off the coach.