Kulwant Khejroliya: From waiter to a potent pacer

Kulwant Khejroliya: From waiter to a potent pacer

Kulwant Khejroliya is congratulated by his team-mates after taking a hat-trick.

Haryana were going strong at 177/3 in 38 overs when Delhi skipper Gautam Gambhir tossed the ball to Kulwant Khejroliya in the hope of getting a breakthrough. The left-arm seamer gave not just one but three of them in as many balls to set up Delhi’s quarterfinal win in the Vijay Hazare Trophy here on Sunday.

“Bhaiyya (Gambhir) brought me on in that over (39th) and told me, 'this is a very important over. If we get a wicket now, it will be good for the team',” said Khejroliya when asked to go through his hat-trick.

“So that was my plan, to bowl wicket to wicket and maintain a good line and length. After I got the first wicket, I realised the ball was reversing a bit. So, I bowled wicket to wicket and that is how I got the second wicket and then the third. I had no plans (for the hat-trick ball). The ball before, I had hit a good line. My aim was to bowl the same ball again,” explained Khejroliya after his six-wicket haul set up Delhi victory.

It was a proverbial turning-the-table act from Khejroliya who not too long ago used to wait tables at a restaurant in Goa. Financial constraints had almost dashed his cricketing hopes but sheer determination and hard work have led to a meteoric rise in his career graph. The 26-year-old moved to Delhi to pursue his passion but had to lie to his parents that he was shifting to Ahmedabad on a job. Moving to Delhi was a turning point in his career which was greatly nourished by Gambhir and coach Sanjay Bharadwaj.       

“Gautam bhaiyya used to come to the LB Shastri Club to practice. After I bowled to him in the nets once, he told sir 'keep an eye on this boy. He has talent, take good care of him.' He used to give me tips and help me out,” noted Khejroliya. In fact, it’s because of Gambhir that he was fast-tracked into Delhi team, a move that has been mutually beneficial.  

“Till 2015, I never imagined I'd go (this) far in cricket,” noted Khejroliya who now has an IPL contract with Royal Challengers Bangalore worth Rs 85 lakh per annum. “There was no scope. There were not many facilities where I was, and my family wasn’t in a position to support me. My friends asked me to join an academy but my family couldn't afford it. Then I went to Goa (to work as a waiter). Then I decided I had to complete my studies first but I couldn't do it. I lied to my family and went to Delhi, joined an academy there, the LB Shastri Club. Gautam bhaiyya and my coach Sanjay Bharadwaj sir helped me a lot. Coach sir took care of me like I was his son. Gautam bhaiyya, Unmukt (Chand) and Nitish Rana -- all are from the same club -- helped me a lot. Then in 2017, I got selected for Vijay Hazare, then India-A and then Mumbai Indians. I started gaining confidence,” recalled Khejroliya.

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