A red-hot Jos Buttler, Mr. Unflappable Krunal Pandya and a rampaging Nitish Rana as prized scalps in a super-tense IPL game at Wankhede Stadium!
Add, outfoxing Rohit Sharma at his favourite ground, a full-house Eden Gardens to this list.
Any bowler would be proud of a wickets inventory like that. With an ability to make a batsman’s stay at the crease uncomfortable with his pace and bounce, it hardly comes as a surprise that Ankit Singh Rajpoot’s hard work has started to pay off.
Having made it to the India A squad on Thursday () for the two unofficial ‘Tests’ against South Africa A scheduled in August, the 23-year-old pacer believes that this maiden 'national' call-up could not have come at a better time in his career.
"I’m happy because I’m doing the hard work and I see this as a reward, so this feels good. I was just waiting for such a big opportunity, where I can perform at the top level and prove myself," Rajpoot said during a conversation with www.kkr.in shortly after his selection in the India A squad.
The lanky pacer made his Ranji Trophy debut for Uttar Pradesh in the 2012-13 season as an 18-year-old. He made an immediate impact with 31 wickets from 7 games at an average of 18.80. This included a match-winning performance of 10/97 against Services.
Shortly thereafter, Rajpoot made it to the Chennai Super Kings team for IPL 2013. However, with the presence of big names, the pacer got an opportunity to showcase his skills in only two outings.
After a couple of years away from the limelight, the pacer came back into IPL contention with 14 wickets for Uttar Pradesh during the team’s successful Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (India’s domestic T20 competition) campaign in 2016.
Picked up by Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2016 IPL auction; Rajpoot has stepped up and turned in worthy performances for the team whenever the occasion demanded over the last two seasons.
“The best part about Ankit is that he never gives up and is a hard trier. We wanted someone like him, as he provides stable support to a bowler like Umesh Yadav,” said the performance analyst of Kolkata Knight Riders, AR Srikkanth.
With Umesh rested for the first two games after a hectic Test season, Rajpoot put up a stellar show in KKR’s IPL 2017 outing against Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium, finishing with figures of 3/37. Unfortunately his spell wasn’t good enough to ensure a victory for the Knights. Despite that, Rajpoot’s show earned praise from fans and experts, alike. Post the IPL season, he was called up for a fast-bowlers training camp, organized by the BCCI, at Bangalore.
“I have learnt a lot during my two seasons at Kolkata Knight Riders. Last year, having Wasim (Akram) bhai as a bowling coach was great. This year (Laxmipathy) Balaji Bhai was a great influence as well.
“This season, I focused a lot on getting my line and length right. I tried to figure out a way of reading the batsman’s mind and being economical at the same time. In any format, it’s important to dismiss batsmen early on, otherwise they can prove very dangerous,” Rajpoot mentioned.
With 95 wickets in 30 first-class games so far, the Kanpur-born pacer will be keen to complete the tally of 100 scalps in South Africa itself.
Switching from the T20 format to the longer format will not be an issue though, according to Ankit.
“I don’t think bowlers have to adjust a lot. The only thing I feel is different is that in the shorter format, the batsmen can give his wicket (as he tries to accelerate) and in the longer format we have to earn the wicket. Hence it is important to be consistent,” signed off Rajpoot.
The KKR family wishes the pacer the very best for the tour of South Africa.