MUMBAI: It hasn’t been an easy ride for Tushar Deshpande, who made an impressive IPL debut in Dubai on Wednesday night, taking two for 37, including the prize wicket of Ben Stokes, to star in Rajasthan Royals’ 13-run win over the Delhi Capitals.
In the beginning of 2017, the talented Mumbai pacer, who had begun to impress with his pace and control in the city’s maidans while playing for Parsee Gymkhana in local cricket, went through tremendous personal strife. “In January, I suffered ankle posterior impingement, which required a surgery, and hamstring tear one after other. The injuries were going to keep me out the game for about a year. In March, I learnt that mother was suffering from (ovarian) cancer,” Deshpande told TOI from Dubai on Wednesday.
At a stage in his career where his sole focus had to be on cricket, Deshpande did well to cope with the massive personal blow, which ultimately saw his mother succumb to the deadly disease last year. “Her whole treatment period was tough, because it’s not just the cancer patient, but his/her family members too who too suffer, seeing the patient in so much pain. However, my father was a pillar of support for me at that time. Since I was injured in 2017, that one-and a-half-year period was very tough for me as I was not playing cricket, and my mom was suffering from cancer. Through that year, I just kept my hope, and focused on getting better with my rehab and fitness,” recalled the 25-year-old.
On Wednesday night, Deshpande, bowling yorkers consistently, gave away just eight, when the Royals needed 22 off the final over, with Rahul Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal at the crease. After the game, his Capitals’ teammate and South African pace ace Kagiso Rabada praised the youngster’s ability to fire in yorkers at will in practice, and even called him a “future India prospect.” “I felt really good after making my team win and bowling in a crunch situation. It was something which I did not expect in my first game. I was just focusing on my death bowling whenever I was practicing, and just tried to execute what I had practiced. I was not trying anything new, as it was ‘game time’ and current situation. I’m now looking forward to do much better in the next game,” said Deshpande.
A few tips from ‘KG’ in the nets about handling pressure helped the Mumbaikar cope with IPL arc-lights for the first time. “In the match, he didn’t say much. However, in practice sessions, I have been speaking to him about handling pressure in close games. He told me: ‘Back yourself and just decide which is the most effective ball in that situation, according to that wicket,'” reveals Deshpande, who was bought for Rs 20 lakh in the IPL auction by the Capitals earlier this year.
Last week, the young turk, who was still awaiting his IPL debut at that time, sought tips from South African pace great Dale Steyn after a game between the Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai. Deshpande sought Steyn’s advice on how to work on his fitness as a fast bowler. “Since he was the No 1 Test bowler for eight years, I asked him what exactly is the recipe for fitness for a fast bowler at the international level. I’ve managed to remain fit for first-class cricket, but I wanted to know how he remained fit for international cricket. He just said: ‘Its repetitive, good work, over and over again. It’s a simple thing, but you tend to miss it. It was important for me that Steyn told me this. I felt very good after listening to him,” Deshpande had said in a video tweeted by the Capitals.
Like any budding pacer, he was in awe of Steyn, who picked up 439 wickets in 93 [email protected] “I was just watching his eyes for a while. I’ve seen them on television, but this was the first time I saw those ‘crazy eyes’ in person. It’s an unbelievable feeling. I still can’t believe that I spoke to him, because speaking to your idol is a surreal feeling,” said Deshpande. Deshpande’s willingness to learn seemed to have left a mark with Steyn too. “Nothing better than meeting people who are enthusiastic and excited about becoming better players. Tushar is all that and more! I wish nothing but greatness for you my friend,” tweeted Steyn later
“Despite the fact that his mother who was suffering from cancer, which was in stage four, he never changed his schedule. He was either in the gym, hospital, practicing or playing matches,” said veteran journalist Makarand Waingankar, who’s the youngster’s mentor.
A couple of years back, Deshpande had impressed West Indies pacer-turned commentator Ian Bishop with his pace and accuracy in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. On Wednesday night, Bishop praised Deshpande’s impressive start in the big league. “Congrats to @DelhiCapitals again. They are a formidable team. That was some of the most exciting fast bowling on show in one game. Nortje, Archer, Rabada and don’t forget Tushar Deshpande were brilliant. Oh, and Ravi Ashwin too very good,” tweeted Bishop.
In 2016, Deshpande was amongst the four fast bowlers chosen by the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Bowling Foundation for a training stint at the Centre of Cricketing Excellence in Queensland in Australia, under former Australian pace great Jeff Thomson. “From the time he came under ‘Thommo’ in that Bowling foundation till now, I have been impressed with his work ethic. He proved that yoga, especially pranayam is useful to a cricketer,” said Waingankar.
Deshpande plays for Parsee Gymkhana in Mumbai’s local cricket. “It was an absolutely brilliant performance by him on debut. I’m really happy for him and his father. Unfortunately, he lost his mother last year to cancer. However, he stayed mentally strong, worked very hard on his fitness and waited for his chance. I always used to tell him just one thing, do all the things that are within your control and leave the uncontrollable, and he did that,” Khodadad S Yazdegardi, who’s the Vice-President and cricket secretary Parsee Gymkhana, told TOI on Wednesday. Yazdegardi is also a member of the Mumbai Cricket Association‘s (MCA) Apex Council.
“I feel proud, and felt even more proud when the Capitals’ bowling coach (Ryan) Harris praised him a lot about his attitude and said he is a very good death overs bowler. He proved him right by conceding just eight in the last over. His biggest plus point is that he is a very good student of the game and a fast learner. In short, he has a very strong character and always gives his 200%, even while playing for our club in the local tournaments,” praised Yazdegardi.
Interestingly, the IPL hasn’t been amongst Deshpande’s top priorities. The talented pacer wants to play for India in Test cricket. A couple of years back, he was asked by Kings XI Punjab to appear for a trial at Mohali, but he stunningly, he preferred to skip what some would term as the ‘chance of a lifetime,’ deciding instead to turn out for his club Parsee Gymkhana in a Purshottam Shield second round match against CCI scheduled at the same time at Parsee Gymkhana.
Last year, a big furore took place in Mumbai cricket when Deshpande was dropped from the Mumbai team for the Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. After much hue and cry, he was eventually included in the squad, and proved his worth with some good spells.