Uttar Pradesh cricketer Saurabh Kumar grabbed the headlines on Saturday after he was added to the Indian squad for the upcoming two-Test home series against Sri Lanka.
Born in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, the 28-year-old has been knocking on the selectors' door after consistently performing on the domestic circuit.
Ranji Trophy debut in 2014
Saurabh Kumar represented Uttar Pradesh at Under-19 and Under-22 levels before making his Ranji Trophy debut for Services against Himachal Pradesh in 2014. Later, he switched to donning the jersey of his home state in the 2015-16 season.
Since then, the left-arm spinner has claimed 196 wickets in 46 first-class matches at an average of 24.15 with 16 five-wicket hauls and six 10-wicket hauls.
Interestingly, Saurabh Kumar was previously employed with the Indian Air Force on sports quota. However, he decided to quit the Air Force to pursue his dream of playing professional cricket.
“There comes a moment in life when you have to make a decision. Jo bhi ho lena padhta hai," Kumar was quoted as saying to news agency PTI.
“It was a tough decision to quit playing Ranji Trophy for the Services. I loved being an Indian Air Force man and part of Indian defence but there was a part of me that felt that I have it in me to work hard and play for India,” he added.
Scouted by Bishan Singh Bedi
Kumar’s impressive talent was spotted early by legendary India spinner Bishan Singh Bedi at his coaching clinic in Nehru Stadium.
“Bedi sir liked what he saw in my bowling. He introduced me to the world of nuance about little things on grip and stuff. No major changes as he liked my action and loved the areas I bowled into.
"One thing that happened during those Summer Camps was I got a chance to bowl hundreds of overs. Bedi sir had one mantra "Mehnat mein kaami nahi honi chhaiye. There should be no short cut to success," Kumar said.
Failing to make Indian T20 League debut
The slow left-arm orthodox bowler has a reputation for bowling economical spells, with an economy rate of 4.38 in List-A cricket. On the other hand, Kumar has given away just over seven runs per over in T20 format. During the Indian T20 League auction in 2017, Kumar was bought by now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants for INR 10 lakh. However, he didn’t play any match for the franchise in the high profile T20 tournament.
Meanwhile, Kumar was the leading wicket-taker for India Blue in the 2018-19 edition of the Duleep Trophy. He bagged 19 wickets in just three matches.
In December 2018, the left-arm spinner registered the second best-bowling figures for Uttar Pradesh in Ranji Trophy after he claimed 14 wickets for 65 runs in the match.
Kumar continued his impressive form in the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season as he ended as the leading wicket-taker for Uttar Pradesh with 50 wickets in nine matches.
Following his scintillating performances in the Ranji Trophy, Kumar was named as one of the five net bowlers in India’s Test squad for their series against England.
Later in the Indian T20 League 2021 auction, Preity Zinta-owned Team Punjab secured his services for INR 20 lakh but went unsold during the Indian T20 League 2022 mega auction.
"Not even one per cent regret sir. This is life. Zindagi mein upar neeche toh hota rahega. Zaroorat hai toh lage rehne ka (There will be ups and downs in life. All you need is to hang on.). I am doing just that," Kumar said to PTI.
Provided Kumar makes his Test debut against Sri Lanka, he will become just the second player after Murali Vijay to make Test debut before their Indian T20 League debut.
Featured photo: VIJAY KUMAR / SPORTASIA / AFP/ Punjab Kings