From spin to pace, Koushik makes the right switch

From spin to pace, Koushik makes the right switch

bright beginning Karnataka medium-pacer V Koushik says he will be focusing on improving his fitness as he looks to fine-tune his craft. DH photo/ S K Dinesh

V Koushik passed the proverbial litmus test of a limited overs bowler at the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

By repeatedly checking the opposition’s run-flow in the death overs, the Karnataka medium pacer aced a task hardly expected from a rookie. But to his team’s advantage, Koushik went a step further. With his efficient bowling, he was also consistently among the wickets.  

Koushik’s effort of 17 wickets from 10 games at an economy rate of 6.36 played a huge role in Karnataka’s title-winning run at the T20 tournament. As the league progressed, Manish Pandey didn’t hesitate to throw the ball to Koushik at the fag end of the innings. And Koushik, playing his maiden tournament for the State, repaid his captain’s faith by troubling the batsmen with his street-smart bowling.

The lean, six-foot-two-inch bowler doesn’t generate express pace. But he can fox the batsmen with his well-executed cutters and yorkers. “Throughout the season, I relied on my strength of bowling yorkers. I used to play a lot of tennis ball cricket and that, to an extent, has helped me in bowling cutters and yorkers,” says Koushik.

With R Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun in the side, Karnataka needed someone who could complement the old warhorses. Koushik, who played the role of a third seamer to perfection, thanks the strong support system in the team. “Vinay would always help me with the field setting. Mithun was helpful too. Prasidh Krishna also spoke to me a lot and he told that winning every single ball is important in T20 cricket,” he says.   

Koushik’s career resembles the several out-of-the-ordinary cricketing stories. He switched to medium pace from spin bowling and for many years, played tournaments without a formal bowling coach.

“I led my school Kendriya Vidyalaya, RWF, and I was an off-spinner. But I leaked runs in one of the tournaments and I felt bowling fast could help me control the batsmen. My first club was Bangalore Sports Club but we got demoted to third Division. So I switched to Bangalore Cricketers where I played for five years without a bowling coach,” says the Bengalurean who currently represents Bangalore Occasionals. 

Just when his career began to gain momentum, Koushik felt the importance of a formal guide. A complicated bowling action resulted in a lower back issue that shattered his confidence. “In 2010, I got picked for the Karnataka Premier League for the first time. When I switched to medium pace bowling, I developed my own action. I liked Munaf Patel and I tried to copy him. I would get wickets with that action and my team-mates would call me Munaf. But it had a severe toll on my lower back. I wasn’t aware of the fitness level required for a seamer. Physio Shravan did a great job in getting me back to action,” Koushik recollects.

Karnataka has a reputation of regularly producing good fast bowlers and it can vex those who wait for their turn. But Koushik’s care-free attitude helped him through the tough times.

“I just wanted to play cricket. It didn’t matter to me what tournament I was playing. When I was employed with Amazon, I played many corporate tournaments. I even played as a guest player for many organisations.

“One needs to understand that it’s tough to break into the Karnataka side and just hope for the best,” he offers.

Three seasons back, Koushik made a mark in the Group I, Division I league for the Sir Mirza Ismail Shield by bagging 31 wickets to top the medium pacers’ charts. With his success in last year’s KPL for Bengaluru Blasters – nine wickets from six games – Koushik inched closer to his dream of playing for Karnataka. “I was the second most economical bowler in KPL last year. KC Cariappa was the first. We reached the final and I felt I could break into the State side,” explains Koushik, who thanks former Karnataka pacer T Nasiruddin for his growth.

Koushik is desperate to avoid being a one-season wonder. With the unceasing stiff competition in Karnataka cricket, he understands that maintaining consistency will be key for him.

“Right now I am very happy with my performance in the Mushtaq Ali tournament. I have always dreamt of playing for Karnataka. It feels great that we are the first team from the South to win the title. I know that I need to work hard to remain relevant. I am planning to put more time into fitness and build my strength. In the off-season, I will work on aspects like my action and release,” says Koushik, who is currently employed at the GST & Customs Department.