'These are hard decisions to make but you need to move forward'

Kunal Kapoor set for fresh chapter

Kunal Kapoor scripted history in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season when he became the first from the State to slam centuries in each innings of a game. Many expected Kunal to scale higher after that special effort but his career never really reached the potential it had promised. 

After playing his last first-class game in 2015, Kunal has reluctantly moved on from what he loved the most -- playing cricket -- at a relatively young age of 31. He has begun a fresh chapter as coach and strength and conditioning specialist. His first significant assignment was in the recently-concluded Karnataka Premier League where he worked as an assistant to coach J Arun Kumar for last year’s champions Belagavi Panthers who narrowly missed out on a semifinal berth. 

“These are hard decisions to make but you need to move forward,” Kunal noted about his decision to quit playing. “I am studying to be a strength and conditioning specialist. Apart from the coaching role, I want to open a fitness facility and train athletes. I want to merge coaching and fitness training. I will use my experience as a player in this job. My stint with Belagavi Panthers as a coach was a good learning experience. I was with JAK who was also my Ranji coach. It was nice guiding youngsters from rural backgrounds who didn’t have enough exposure,” he said. 

The twin hundreds (106 & 100 n.o.) in Hubballi against Haryana exhibited his talent. During Karnataka’s unprecedented dominance, between 2013-15, Kunal played a key role. He bailed the team out of precarious situations on more than one occasion. But inconsistency and the stiff competition in Karnataka cricket derailed Kunal’s journey. 

“My neck was on the line always,” he pointed out. “If I failed in a couple of games, I would either be out of the 11 or dropped from the squad. By the third year of my career, I knew if I failed in even one match I wouldn’t get another opportunity. This thought didn’t allow me to bat freely. I rescued the team from tough situations and I felt maybe I should have been given more chances” explained Kunal, who has four fifties apart from those two tons in 17 first-class games. 

Kunal wasn’t interested in the blame game. “I should have also prepared better. I should have converted my starts in many matches. I would have been a better batsman if I had done that. I played in England and Australia and understood more about my game,” he said.

Not playing for Karnataka was a tough phase, confessed Kunal. “I wanted to play for the country. But I wasn’t getting my chances and if you aren’t playing for the best domestic side, then you cannot achieve bigger goals and I didn’t want to continue. It’s disappointing not to play with the guys you grew up with. I wanted to play for Karnataka for a long time.” 

The desire to play, however, is still alive in Kunal. “I still feel like playing. BCCI has introduced nine new teams so you never know. But right now, I want to take this path,” he signed off.

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