‘Once set, need to score big runs’

India Red’s Karun Nair directs one en route to his unbeaten 92 against India Blue on the first day of second Duleep Trophy game in Alur on Friday. DH PHOTO/  Srikanta Sharma R

Kaladharan Nair chose to stand for more than two hours watching his son Karun Nair nearly essay a century on the opening day of the second Duleep Trophy game between India Blue and India Red here at the Alur 1 ground on Friday.

“Ever since I started playing cricket, my father has come to watch me play in Bengaluru. In Alur, he likes to watch the game from near the trees. And since there are no seats there, he stands. There is no superstition involved in this,” said Karun, with a chuckle at the end of day’s play.

As Nair walked in to bat in the morning, perhaps nobody, apart from the Karnataka batsman himself, would have been as desperate as his father to see his son produce a big score.

Nair’s journey in the last two years highlights the need of big knocks as his career stands at a crucial phase. After his brilliant century in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Vidarbha in December 2017, the right-hand batsman hasn’t reached the three-figure mark in first-class cricket again.

The dismal story doesn’t end there. Once a certainty in the India ‘A’ teams, he wasn’t picked for the series against Sri Lanka ‘A’, the West Indies ‘A’ and the upcoming South Africa ‘A’. In the Indian Premier League, in which he once led the Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) and produced a stellar show, Nair was ignored after just one game by Kings XI Punjab last season.

The past had thrown tough challenges for Nair but Friday was a fresh start. And his unbeaten 92 for India Red was an ideal beginning to the domestic season for the 27-year-old. Nair paced his innings well, drove delightfully and flicked in full control. But he would also have been mindful of risky reverse sweeps or the sharp incoming deliveries that had brought an end to his promising starts previously. He was almost blemishless in his 189-ball knock.

“I took some time off and thought what more I can do. I realised I had to work as hard as the best guys in cricket today. I batted double sessions in nets and some days I batted the whole day. I feel satisfied with my preparation,” Nair explained.

A proven match-winner for Karnataka, Nair’s sustained excellent show since his first-class debut in 2013 gave him the India cap. But slump in form also put him on the sidelines.

“I have realised that, once I get a start, I need to make it big. I need to work on my consistency. I need to try and perform in every game. That’s what gets any player to the highest level and that’s my only focus now,” he offered.

Nair’s ability to rise to the occasion gave him the reputation of a big-match player. But this season, he is aiming for a consistent run. “It’s not like I always wanted to score only in the semifinal or final. But yes, I need to create the pressure in every game and tell myself that it’s a final. That’s the switch in attitude I am focusing on this season,” he said.

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