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Rajesh Pawar gets his 'turn'

January 30, 2009 11:23 IST

It is very easy for a cricketer to lose hope when things aren't working. But to hope against hope and keep trying needs loads of patience and fortitude. No wonder, many fail to resurrect their career after their initial hopes are dashed; some only remain a shadow of their former selves, with a glorious past but bleak future.

However, there are some who keep fighting. And their hope remains intact in the face of every adversity.

Rajesh Pawar belongs to this elite group of cricketers.

His name may not ring a bell instantly, but his figures certainly do. A tally of 42 Ranji Trophy wickets in the last two seasons for Baroda is certainly impressive, if not outstanding. Add to it the six-wicket haul (six for 34), on Day 1 of the Duleep Trophy match on Thursday, which helped West Zone dismiss East Zone for a paltry 171 in the first essay, and certainly you've got a spinner of class.

But ask him about his bowling and he sounds dismissive at first.

"I had 20-odd wickets in six matches in this Ranji season," says the left-arm spinner. "But I wasn't particularly happy with my efforts, as in the last two matches I had only three wickets."

Then, this six-wicket haul must surely come as a relief.

"I wasn't not under any pressure and I got good turn and flight," he reasons, before adding the nature of the wicket at the Brabourne Stadium did take him by surprise.

"I was a bit shocked. There was grass on the wicket overnight and I had thought this wicket won't be conducive for spinners," said Pawar. "So, all I had hoped for was to maintain a good line. But I guess the fact that the wicket was damp in the morning helped me."  

Help or no help, this was a moment for him to cherish.

Almost 30, he tried in vain to cement his place in the Mumbai Ranji squad for years. The failure did not dent his confidence but made him move to Baroda, where he is certainly better off. Ask him about those years and he is quite pragmatic.

"Both, in Mumbai and Baroda you have to perform consistently if you have to maintain your place in the side," he reasons. "While in Mumbai, I had to compete with Sai (Sairaj Bahutule) and Nilesh (Kulkarni). They both played for India and performed consistently. So the scope for me was low."

It wasn't only in the Mumbai Ranji team that Pawar failed. He was in the Indian squad that toured Bangladesh post the 2007 World Cup debacle. Again Pawar ended up the bridesmaid.

The chance to represent Mumbai came in the form of an Indian Premier League (IPL) deal with Mumbai Indians. He did get an opportunity to play, in the match against Kolkata Knight Riders. But the Kolkata team got dismissed for just 66 and that put paid to his hopes of more matches.

Don't these setbacks rankle?

"Obviously, you feel bad when you don't get a chance to play," admits Pawar. "But that also makes me more determined to keep performing."

There are many Indian players whose careers have never gone beyond the Ranji and Duleep trophies. And they have ended up as virtual unknowns in a cricket-crazy nation. Is he prepared for such an eventuality?

"I believe anything is possible in cricket," Pawar says, trying to be positive. "If you have one good season anything can happen.

"But I don't put much pressure on me regarding that. Too much pressure affects the mind and, consequently, the performance. The best thing is to keep doing your work."

There is no alternative but agree to what Pawar is saying.

All these years of struggle have definitely made him mature and wise while helping him retain his patience throughout.

Bikash Mohapatra