Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy pace spearhead Tushar Deshpande has become a force to be reckoned with on the domestic circuit thanks to his raw pace and match-winning performances. He has also played for Team Delhi in the Indian T20 league and shared the dressing room with the bigwigs of Indian and international cricket 

The 26-year-old has taken 50 wickets for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and had a rewarding stint with Delhi in the Indian T20 League. The Mumbai lad now has his eyes set on the next Indian T20 League auctions and has some big plans for the years to come.

In this exclusive interview with SportsAdda, the lethal fast bowler opens up on the heartbreak of going unsold in the auction, learning from the likes of Ishant Sharma and Kagiso Rabada, and the influence of Mumbai cricket to his career

From a debut season with Delhi to remaining unsold this year at the Indian T20 League, how did you take to that?

Tushar Deshpande: I was quite hurt initially on going unsold in a span of three months after making my Indian T20 League debut and performing well on the occasions I got the chances. I was a bit nervous about what went wrong. We were in Jaipur in quarantine for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and shifted my focus on that tournament thinking that I will give my best in the opportunities that I get. We went on to win it and mine was a decent performance though I could have done better. I am over it right now since it has been some time. There are a lot of things to look forward to, so I am just focusing on improving my form and fitness now.

Tell us about your India experience overall and especially with Rahul Dravid.

Tushar Deshpande: I would say there is quite a lot of difference between first-class cricket and India A. The margin of error is less, and the intensity is quite high. I would say the Indian T20 League intensity, and the India A intensity are the same as an international game. You must be on your toes all the time. There cannot be a single ball where you can relax. In a first-class game, there are situations sometimes when three-four quick wickets fall, and the situation is relaxing. It is completely opposite at the A level where you can’t bat an eyelid.

I had a chat with Rahul sir about myself and what areas I should improve upon. He told me very calmly you have got everything in you to make it to the top level. Just focus on adding more variations and try to keep on adding them to excel in white-ball cricket.

Share a few of your favourite Delhi memories from the Indian T20 League.

Tushar Deshpande: It was my first year in the Indian T20 League. I was lucky to be a part of the Delhi team because of the fact that the management and the supporting staff treated each of us [in the same] way they would treat senior cricketers like Shikhar Dhawan. All talks in the team are always positive be it the coach, management or the players. We used to motivate each other as a team, and everyone saw the results as well. We went on to reach the finals for the first time ever. All this was due to the positive environment around.

My favourite memory would be making my debut for Delhi and my first Indian T20 League wicket, Ben Stokes. In the next game, I was not expected to bowl the first over with Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada in my team against Chennai. The trust Ricky Ponting showed in me felt very encouraging.

How was your experience of playing with Rishabh Pant?

Tushar Deshpande: What I figured out about Rishabh Pant is that he is a guy who will never give up easily. He wasn’t in great form last season, but he used to bat long hours in the nets to improve constantly. He has got a great attitude. That shows his attitude as well towards the game and I learnt that from him. You never ever give up and the whole world saw the result in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Off the field, he is very chilled out and does not speak about cricket much.

What were the learnings from the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Ishant Sharma?

Tushar Deshpande: During the practice sessions, Ishant Sharma was not available for the whole tournament in UAE because of his injury. But speaking to him during the practice sessions was extremely helpful. He has played over 100 Tests for India now and I used to always ask him about various variations to bowl to a certain batsman. Playing 100 Tests for a fast bowler is a great achievement and when you have played so much, you can guess the batsman’s tactics, strengths, and weaknesses. He is too good at it. I also used to talk to him about field placements for different batsmen.

Rabada is all about backing himself. He is a very confident guy. He said that a couple of bad games does not make you a bad bowler. You have done well to reach here, and you will go further. Just keep doing things that you have been doing. My adrenaline was always rushed when I had them bowling on the other end in the match.

Tell us a bit about Ricky Ponting as a coach and motivator.

Tushar Deshpande: I was not sure about approaching him initially but after a few practice sessions, I went and spoke to him. He has got a great positive vibe around him and is a great motivator. He had the confidence in me which eventually translated into my bowling when I made my debut. There was constant support from his side that allowed me to back myself even more. He has got a very attacking mindset that rubbed off on me too. That is what I have been doing for Mumbai as well every single time.

Even bowling coach Ryan Harris played a great role in our learnings, he was continuously with all the boys right at the top of the run-up and guiding us constantly.

How excited are you to get yourself going with Mumbai cricket once the matches resume?

Tushar Deshpande: I am very much excited to get going with Mumbai cricket. I have come through the ranks of Mumbai cricket. MCA (Mumbai Cricket Association) gave me everything, the platform, and the opportunities. I am very eager for the season to restart once the situation is favourable.

What does it mean to lead Mumbai's pace attack?

Tushar Deshpande: I would say this was the thing I always dreamt about, playing for Mumbai, and leading the attack. I am happy I am able to do that. I want to win the Ranji Trophy for Mumbai. I started my career for Mumbai as a third pacer because Dhawal Kulkarni and Shardul Thakur used to bowl the new ball. I love bowling and that’s what I want to continue doing, regardless of being a spearhead or not.

How hopeful are you for next year's mega auctions?

Tushar Deshpande: I am very hopeful and positive about getting picked. I have done well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. I feel I have got whatever it takes to be at the international level, be it the pace, variations, or fitness.

Has T20 Mumbai played an important role in shaping Mumbai cricket and how has it helped you?

Tushar Deshpande: I would say it has made a huge difference to Mumbai cricket and my career as well. Before its inception, we had not won the domestic ODI and T20 leagues in the last 10 years. But after T20 Mumbai, we won the Vijay Hazare Trophy where I was the highest wicket-taker. We also reached the finals of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2018. In 2019, we were in the Super League and this year we won the Vijay Hazare. In a span of three years, we won two white-ball tournaments and one finalist spot, all this because of T20 Mumbai since it gave us the infrastructure for the white-ball tournaments. Prior to that, there was not any cricket apart from first-class that was played with the white ball. It has played a huge role in shaping Mumbai cricket and is a huge platform laid down by MCA. It is investing in players and the results are there. You will find a lot of young cricketers coming out of the tournament and doing well for Mumbai at various levels.

Written by : Saumin Parmar

Featured photo : Tushar Deshpande / Instagram