In Harshit sprouts a speed dream


It was 3.00 PM in the afternoon, and the players involved in the Duleep Trophy game between North Zone and North East Zone were going through the routine tea break. The crows were upping the ante with calls of “caw” and “kraa”. And there was some generator running behind at full speed. Other than that, there was silence. A few minutes passed by and play resumed, with North Zone already in front by more than 600 runs. Soon they declared their second innings.

Amid all the silence, a 22-year-old Harshit Rana bounded to the crease and started a brisk spell. He was hitting high up on the splice of the bat on a track that didn’t seem to have a blade of grass. One of the offerings forced the batter to edge the ball behind. Prabhsimran Singh, the ’keeper, perhaps couldn’t anticipate the pace at which it was coming towards him as he missed the chance. Subsequently, the ball scurried away to the fence, and banged into the boundary boards with a huge thud. As there was pin-drop silence in an empty stadium, the effect of the ball smashing into the board perhaps got magnified.

As a few curious onlookers came to watch the game, Harshit decided to bowl from round the wicket to the two right-handers. To bowl short time and again, and that too from round the wicket, would require loads of energy, especially on a pitch offering little assistance. But the youngster kept his energy levels up, as he continued to trouble the openers. Eventually, he got his reward by removing one of them, Kishan Lyngdoh.

“I did that (bowling bumpers from round the wicket) as it was the third day and the last session, and there was nothing in the wicket. All we can do is try, and that was the mindset. So, I bowled bouncers, and I got the wicket,” Harshit told RevSportz.

Harshit has showcased his ability to bowl at a fair clip on enough occasions. In his previous domestic game against Hyderabad, he ran through the cream of the batting by taking a seven-for. But the wicket that gave him the most satisfaction was in the first innings, as he had to wait a while to pick up his first one. “Not talking about the seven wickets that I took in the second innings. But the previous innings, when I took three wickets, I had picked up my first wicket (S Lokesh) in the 12th or 13th over. I mean it took long to pick up the wicket, perhaps on Day 2. I remember that.”

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In the recently-concluded IPL, he would have caught the attention of India selectors, as he cranked up the pace and seemed to be hitting the bat hard while playing for KKR. He remembers one of his victims fondly, and perhaps looks at him as a role model. “Hardik Pandya. He is one of the best, I like him as a cricketer.” In that particular game against Gujarat Titans, Hardik was clearly beaten for pace and was trapped in front.

Harshit also credited the KKR set-up and Nitish Rana, his senior Delhi teammate and franchise skipper, for harnessing and noticing his gifts. It has to be recalled that when Harshit was picked as a replacement for Rasikh Salam by KKR in April last year, he hadn’t yet played a competitive game at the senior level.  “KKR has supported me a lot, took me after seeing me in trials. Nitish Rana, the KKR management, Abhishek Nayar sir, Bharat Arun sir, all have supported me. Experience is always great. All of them are big stars, they have played big games. You get a lot to learn, where are you going wrong, if you’re doing good or not.”

It was about a decade ago when Harshit had an initiation to bowl fast. But he also needed a good support system for the dream to blossom. For Harshit, behind the scenes, his father turned out to be the bedrock. “My cricket started when I was in seventh standard. As it is said, everyone plays gully cricket in India. My father (Pradeep Rana) played a big role in my career. He was the one who got it started.

“Father used to wake me up at 4.30 AM and take me to training. Even if I didn’t want to, he used to wake me up. My school bus used to come at 7.30. From the school, I had to travel 1 hour and 45 minutes for practice. My father would  come to the school with his vehicle, take me to practice and return (back home).”

Harshit has another hidden skill, which could turn out to be an additional weapon in his quiver: Power-hitting. The 22-year-old cracked a blistering ton in the game against North East Zone, and his innings included as many as nine sixes. “I really like batting. Yes, every bowler says that (with a smile). My coaches (Amit Bhandari, Gokul & Co) used to say, ‘I can hit sixes, and would tell me to work on my batting.’”

To throw in a word or two of caution, Harshit’s talents still need some polishing for it to dazzle on the big stage. But that one spell he bowled from round the wicket at the Chinnaswamy Stadium sums up his sheer passion to bowl fast. As he says, “From childhood days, my only thought has been to bowl fast.” 

Unfortunately, as is the case with most domestic matches, there was an eerie silence when this young fast bowler charged to the crease…

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