After being passed up in the auctions ahead of the 2019 Indian T20 League season, Tushar Deshpande finally got his call to play in the world's richest cricket league when Delhi signed him up.
It was a validation for the Mumbai lad who made his first-class debut for Mumbai at the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy. Since then, he has been named one of eight players to watch ahead of the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy, followed by a selection in the India Blue team for the 2019-20 Duleep Trophy.
Unfortunately, what was to be his debut Indian T20 League season has been suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. However, he isn't bitter about that in the slightest, as we found out during an Instagram Live session with SportsAdda.
My father used to play cricket, and when I was four years old, I used to go with my father to watch him play and soon, I started playing. He was my motivation.
How much are you missing cricket now (during the lockdown)?
Missing it a lot, yaar. I’ve grown up playing cricket day in, day out and never been in this position. It’s been almost two months since I’ve been at a cricket ground, so it’s been tough but we can’t help it. We have to follow the social distancing rules.
What do you do in your spare time now?
I get up late, watch a few webseries, and read some books. I also keep three hours aside for my workouts. I’m also sleeping late, which I know as an athlete, I shouldn’t be.
What are you reading?
Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover. He was a mentor to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
It was supposed to be your first Indian T20 League season. Are you frustrated at the delay?
Not at all frustrated as this has happened to everyone. I’m just lucky that I haven’t been infected yet. It’s important that I know what’s going on outside and maintain my social responsibility. I’m just hoping this coronavirus threat is soon vanquished.
You started as a ballboy in 2008, watching Sachin Tendulkar play. Tell us about that.
It was the first year of the Indian T20 League and back then, Sachin was everything for us. Just watching his game from the boundary line lit a spark inside me.
Is it true that you turned down a Punjab trial in 2018 for a club game?
I didn’t refuse anything. The club game was the next day and I had already committed when I was called up for the Punjab trials. I didn’t pick and choose anything but for any athlete, commitment is a must.
Your first-class career was also very decorated, particularly your 2018/19 season for Mumbai.
2018 was the season I came back from my injury. That season taught me a lot of things, regarding my body maintenance, how you should go about your game, and your preparation.
Tell us about your Ranji trophy debut which had a four wicket-haul.
I was very excited as it was a last-minute call. I think Shardul (Thakur) was called up by the India team, and so a day before the game, the night before in fact, I got to know that I’ll be playing.
I was excited but also nervous and my heartbeat was pulsating, as playing for Mumbai wasn’t easy around those star players. However, I just hit the right lengths and got the reward for it. I just cherished the moment.
Do you remember the batsmen you knocked out?
First was Dinesh Karthik, second was Baba Aparajith, and third was Krishnamoorthy Vignesh. I also got Indrajit but that was a no-ball.
What do you prefer? Swing with a new ball or reverse-swing with an old ball?
Reverse-swing with the old ball for sure because in Indian conditions, the ball doesn’t stay new for long. So as a bowler, you have to have command over your reverse-swing to take wickets.
How difficult was it to break out as a fast bowler in the Mumbai Ranji squad, in such a star-studded team?
It wasn’t difficult but definitely a challenge, because there was Shardul (Thakur), Dhawal (Kulkarni), and these guys have played for the country. The only place for a bowler was the third pacer and I think there were 12-13 pacers in the competition, among whom I was chosen.
But a Ranji trophy cap you won’t get too easily because the selectors test you in age-group cricket. I played the Under-23 level for two years after my Under-19 stint, and even the championship, in which I was the highest wicket-taker. So after two years of consistent performance, I got that Ranji Trophy debut.
Are you aggressive in professional tournaments?
Yes, my bowling is aggressive because a fast-bowler has to be. Not agitating or abusing the batsman, but at the same time, without aggression, the team morale won’t be lifted and I think sport is best played when you are aggressively challenging the opponent.
I keep in mind that I’m there on the ground to make a difference. That’s just my intensity and how I play cricket.
Recent Indian players like Saurav Ganguly and Virat Kohli have shown that you can be aggressive as long as you think straight.
Yes, being aggressive is in the personality. If you tell MS Dhoni to be aggressive, he won’t be but Kohli is aggressive by nature, so it’s important you back yourself, whatever your nature is, and give your 100 percent.
We shouldn’t think about what others are thinking about us. You just have to go and express yourself.
However, you were mentored by one of the calmest players - Rahul Dravid. How was that experience?
That was great. He is a man of discIndian T20 Leagueine, and self-discIndian T20 Leagueine is key if you want to play at a high level of cricket. And not just cricket but it’s important in life also.
You get a sense of calmness and positivity from Rahul sir, and the input he has is on point. He will be straightforward. I played two series under him and it’s been great for me.
When you found out you were going to be a part of Delhi Capitals, how did you react?
I was very happy. Delhi Capitals is a team that shows trust in youngsters and backs them, so getting in a team like DC was great for me. I always thought of playing for them because I saw how they backed Shreyas (Iyer), a great friend of mine, and now he’s playing for India.
How did you overcome being unsold in last year’s Indian T20 League auction?
Yea, it was disheartening because I’d done really well that season but I just told myself that I have to just keep going and this wasn’t going to be the last opportunity. There would be many opportunities coming up, maybe bigger than this even. That kept me going and a year later, I got the opportunity with DC.
What is the importance of mental toughness in cricket and how are you working on it?
I think you have to be mentally tough if you want to play at a highest level of cricket. At that level, everything won’t go your way. There are going to be times when everything is going against you. That is the time you yourself get to know how mentally tough you are. That is the time you have to push yourself and find ways to perform again.
How would you compare the kind of mental toughness a fast bowler needs in comparison to a batsman, wicketkeeper, or even a spin bowler?
I think mental toughness for a fast bowler connects with physical fitness also. No matter how many hours you train in the gym, there are going to be times your body feels tired and yet you have to motivate yourself for yet another five-over spell, another match, and so on.
Life for a fast bowler isn’t easy. Everyone’s got niggles in their body and you have to push through that.
Cricket has become a lot faster. How do you train for that?
Yes, cricket has become faster now. Test matches rarely go on for five days and then there is the T20 format. The thing which has changed I think is the quality of fielders. Every cricketer, I included, has to improve on fielding in current cricket.
How has Zlatan Ibrahimovic motivated you?
A lot. Big fan of his attitude, the aura he has on the ground is very motivating. I read his book I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic completely. During my injury, I used to read his quotes and watch his videos.
I think among our cricketers, MS Dhoni is closest to the kind of personality that Zlatan has.
What sports do you follow outside cricket?
I follow football, tennis and also swimming, just for Michael Phelps. His story is also quite motivating and I watched the Olympics due to him.