India has a humongous population of 1.34 billion people and this number only keeps growing as every year passes by. Although the country has a vast number of religions, languages, states and other cultural differences, cricket is one game that has brought us together for decades. Today, when we think of modern cricket, we can’t forget the Indian Premier League (IPL), which has been creating success stories since 2008.
Possibly the world’s most entertaining professional T20 league, the IPL celebrates some of India’s best cricketing talent each year at the auction. Similarly, on December 18th 2018, the IPL 2019 auction took place and once again, some immensely talented cricketers were rewarded with handsome contracts for the upcoming 12th edition of the league.
One such player was Akshdeep Nath, who has been a part of this competition since 2016, and after three seasons since his IPL debut, he announced himself this year with a massive INR 3.6 Crore contract. Starting from a base price of just 10 Lakh three seasons ago, his hard work and perseverance has come to light this year, landing his biggest IPL contract yet, after an intense bidding war between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
They say performing for India at the U-19 World Cup is the best way to get noticed at the IPL, while consistently excelling in the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments is the next best route to take. Nath has done both and it wasn’t going to be too long before he picked up a major contract like this one. He was a part of the 2012 U-19 World Cup winning team, while he also has 628 runs at an average of 62.80 in the 2018/19 Ranji Trophy thus far. Now, he will play IPL 2019 for RCB.
Read Scoops earlier caught up with Gurkeerat Singh Mann and you can get that entire interview here. Now, we reached out to his new RCB teammate Akshdeep Nath to congratulate him on this joyous moment of his life. He was kind enough to talk to us about his career so far, his future in the sport, and of course, the excitement he felt as the bids kept rising against his name at the IPL 2019 auction. Keep reading for more…
Akshdeep Nath social profiles🌐:
AKSHDEEP NATH’s Exclusive Interview With Read Scoops:
Q. Akshdeep, with achievements like the U-19 WC win, Vinoo Mankad Trophy and more, what would you say has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
“Winning the U-19 World Cup would be the top moment so far. Being a part of the IPL is also right up there, but the feeling of winning a global tournament is unbeatable so that is by far the favourite moment of my career until now.”
Q. Anyone in particular you would like to thank for supporting you until here?
“I think my family has been the most supportive, especially my father, who has been there throughout, right from my early days in cricket. There have been a few coaches who I owe a lot to over the years, but my dad has been a rock-solid support system for me. Even today. So, he would be the person I’d like to thank the most.”
Akshdeep Nath made his debut in the IPL for the interim franchise Gujarat Lions, when they picked him up in the IPL 2016 auction for his base price of INR 10 Lakh. However, he never really got a chance to play much for the team, with the team selecting him for only 5 games in two years, where he only had the chance to score 20 runs, his highest being 12.
Things were looking up for him when Kings XI Punjab then purchased him for a massive INR 1 Crore from his base of INR 20 Lakh. However, there too, he was just played once, again not getting the chance to prove himself with the bat, ending with just 9 runs in that solitary game. Clearly, the man has a point to prove, being selected this season for a whopping INR 3.6 Crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore. He’s all set to make this his best season in the Indian Premier League yet.
Q. From a base price of 10 Lakh in 2016 to this massive contract for IPL 2019, how did you react when you knew you were picked up by RCB?
“I think that more than the price, going to a team like Royal Challengers Bangalore was what made me happy, as I’ve always wanted to play alongside the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Not only does one get to play with them, but they also get the chance to learn so much from them. Especially for me, being a middle-order batsman, these two are the best guys to be around and go up to talk to, to help me enhance my game.”
“Definitely, the price is also a major factor. I didn’t really expect to see the price tag reach that high, so it was a big surprise. A pleasant surprise. However, going to RCB is what matters the most. When I used to watch the IPL as a child, I always loved RCB and after Virat and ABD became major parts of it, I dreamt of joining this team.”
Q. What do you think was the main reason for this jump in your value?
“Consistent performances are certainly one of the main reasons. I’ve been playing Ranji Trophy since the last 3-4 years but I was batting too low down the order, which wasn’t letting me get those big scores. As a result, everyone knew about Akshdeep Nath, but the teams will only trust you more once you have some big scores in your bank. I can keep wickets now, and also bowl a few overs, so that’s also a reason for the boost in my value. The role of a wicket-keeper is not much in T20 cricket, so nowadays, teams are looking for makeshift wicket-keepers who can bat well and do a decent job behind the stumps too.”
Q. Were you watching the auction live? What was your reaction? And reaction of your family?
“I was watching the auction live, with my family. My mom, dad, brother and everyone else was watching and they were all very excited because even they didn’t expect the price to go so high. Initially, when the bidding began, we thought it may go up to 60-70 Lakh, but it kept going until 360 Lakh, which was really huge. So yeah, the friends and family were all happy. All my friends who were in town came and visited that day and the next day, while the others called to congratulate me. Overall, those couple of days were very great for me.”
Q. Did you have any idea that RCB and CSK were looking out for you?
“No! I had no idea at all.”
Q. 3 seasons of IPL and only 6 games yet. What are the preparations to ensure that this is your best IPL season yet, including a lot more matches?
“I believe my biggest preparation this year has been for facing the best bowlers in the death overs. Because I’m a middle order batsman, most of the games I’ve played, I’ve batted in the death overs. Now when batting in this stage of the game, you generally have to face the opposition’s best bowlers, and you have to be prepared. You can’t complain saying you weren’t ready for someone like a Malinga coming at you. This is something I was lacking, but I’ve worked hard on it this season. I’ve tried to do my homework on specialist bowlers from every team, and also on slight technical aspects of my batting. This has helped me so far in the current Ranji Trophy season too. I’m going into IPL 2019 with a few big scores in my kitty, so I’m also growing in confidence. The man-to-man preparation has been much better this year and hopefully I’ll continue this over the months.”
Q. How excited are you to be playing under Virat Kohli?
“If you’re playing under the national team captain and he picks you in the playing eleven, your confidence is automatically boosted. You’ll be playing in his team only if he rates you high as a player. There’s definitely a lot to learn from Kohli about the game and about handling pressure situations. Be it with regards to my fielding or my batting, there’s certainly going to be loads to absorb from him.”
Q. RCB has had two poor seasons in a row. Could this be the year they’ll bring home the title?
“This clearly seems to be the year for RCB as they’ve made some good changes, roped in some quality all-rounders, and strengthened their middle order as well. I think that was what was lacking in the team. These two (Kohli and ABD) weren’t getting the support they needed from the other batsmen. If the middle order can work around these two and contribute accordingly, the team will look a much stronger one this year.”
Akshdeep bats, bowls, does a little bit of wicket keeping and is an exceptionally talented fielder as well. Right from his U-19 World Cup days, he has displayed the ability to save bucket loads of runs in the field, and the above video is one example of how is so lively in the outfield. Another major example was his piece of boundary fielding in the IPL for Gujarat Lions a couple of years back. Take a look at this marvellous effort on the ropes:
Q. IPL teams look for players who contribute in more than just one way, so what are your strongest departments?
“I think batting and fielding are my strongest departments and these two give me the confidence for other aspects of my game as well. Being a good fielder, I always thought that I could definitely keep wickets too, right from U-19 days. Batting is my main job, but I always look to contribute in the field and that helps in giving me the extra confidence in other departments.”
Q. You’ve been going through the ranks since a few years now. How long before you don the national team jersey?
“I think the last 2-3 years have been really good for me, in terms of career growth. My personal aim is to play for the country within the next couple of years, if I get chances and perform for India A. Performances at this level will increase my chances of being in the national team within 3 years from today at the most.”
RAPID FIRE with Akshdeep:
- Favourite moment in the IPL so far? “The same piece of fielding you spoke about in IPL 2016 is my favourite moment. That was the highlight of my season, I saved four runs and those runs saved later helped us win the game off the last ball. Apart from that, learning from all the greats have been good moments. My idol since childhood has been Dale Steyn, and sharing the dressing room with him and McCullum was also amazing.”
- Favourite cricketers? “Indian – Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, as their ability to handle pressure situations make them both greats. International – AB de Villiers, as he looks like he owns every format he plays. He has played 300 balls in Tests to score 25 runs, and has also scored a century in 31 balls, changing his play based on the situation of the game.”
- Favourite IPL team? “As I was a hardcore Rahul Dravid fan, RCB has been my favourite since initial days, but I’ve also loved CSK.”
- Favourite format? “I feel I’m personally suited best to the One Day format. With the advent of T20, One Day is a long game and I get to take my time. 4-day first-class cricket is obviously the biggest challenge, but I prefer playing One Day cricket.
- What would you be if not a cricketer? “Since young, I’ve been playing a lot of tennis and football, but didn’t concentrate on them because of cricket. If not a cricketer, I would’ve definitely been another sportsperson.”
To conclude our long chat with him, Nath said, “I’m looking forward to playing in IPL 2019 and giving my team some good performances, which will lead to chances in bigger and higher teams. Thank you.”
On behalf of the entire team here at Read Scoops, I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to Akshdeep Nath for taking the time out to talk to us, and to wish him the best of luck for the upcoming IPL 2019 tournament as well. Also, we hope to see him playing and entertaining in Indian colours soon!
– Dwayne Fernandes, Read Scoops