‘It wasn’t really difficult’: Nitish Rana Opens up on Switching Base from Delhi to UP | Exclusive
Nitish Rana has had quite an eventful last couple of years or so when he received his India cap in the white-ball format, led KKR in Shreyas Iyer’s absence, made a shift from Delhi to UP in the domestic circuit, and finally led a side at the ongoing inaugural season of UP T20 League.
Rana, while did not manage to take KKR to their third IPL title, he played a pivotal role, captaining the side and learning the nuances of leadership.
The southpaw had also posted a picture with Rohit Sharma on social media after the KKR vs MI fixture in the last edition and captioned, “Special connection, special conversation”.
After all these hara-kiri of events in the last year and a half, the batter halted in an exclusive chat with News 18 CricketNext, and talked about the inaugural UP T20 League, his experience as KKR skipper, the decision to choose UP to make the shift from Delhi, and definitely threw light on his learnings from Rohit Sharma.
Excerpts from the conversation –
How do you see the UP T20 League as a platform to unearth new and young talent from the state?
It’s a very good and big platform for new talent. I’m sure, there are a lot of players who play the game but very few of them get a chance to play domestic cricket. So, it’s an opportunity for the others to showcase their talent and skills and further enhance their game.
Moreover, a tournament of this sort is pretty good for the senior players as well as they get game time to prepare for a competition like the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. I’m very lucky that I got the opportunity to play in this league just after making the switch from Delhi to UP.
You have been a part of the Delhi team for a long time. Do you think Delhi should also organise such kind of a tournament?
Delhi too has a lot of talent but I don’t really know why they still don’t have a tournament like this. But I’m sure whenever it happens, it will be very helpful for the Delhi players.
You made a switch from Delhi to UP in the domestic circuit. Was it a difficult call to make?
It wasn’t really difficult. I just felt that I was at that stage of my career where I needed a different dressing room and a different environment. I just felt that I should make the switch and I had the opportunity that came to me. As we say, change is at times good and I felt it would be good for my career.
Why did you specifically choose UP?
I have played a lot of cricket against UP right from junior level to senior level and I have seen a lot of talent in UP state. I just wanted to be a part of a dressing room which possesses a lot of talent. My thought process is not just playing or just being a part of the line-up. I want to win trophies.
Has there been any chat about your role in the line-up?
We haven’t really had any chat about the kind of role that I’m going the play in this team. Sunil Joshi sir is our head coach and we will have these kinds of discussions during the camps.
Personally, I’m ready for any kind of role. I’m always ready to help the junior players. Also, there is Bhuvi bhai (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) whose experience is going to be very valuable throughout the season.
It’s going to be a learning curve for me as well as it’s a new state. So, I’m pretty excited.
Talk to us about your experience while leading KKR & working with Coach Chandrakant Pandit.
I have been playing for the franchise for the last three–four years and have been a part of that leadership group. Honestly, I never thought that I was going to get this opportunity (of leading the franchise). When we got to know that Shreyas Iyer was injured, it was that time when I put my hand up and told them that I was ready to take up the role.
It was a great experience. I learnt very different and new things. I have grown as a player and as a person. When you are leading the side, you do a lot of different things. Captaincy gives you a different perspective both on and off the field. That was a very important phase in my career.
KKR franchise has a lot of big names in the ranks. What kind of discussions did you have while leading them?
IPL is a very big league. All the players are professionals. As a player, you always try to learn and grab as much as you can.
If you talk about Andre Russell, he has played 500+ T20 matches in his career and is very experienced in the format. So, I had nothing new to tell him.
But our focus was more on playing and performing as a unit on the ground. Everyone has a skillset. We were just concentrating on playing as a unit.
Talking about our season, it wasn’t really a great one for us but we learnt a lot from it. Whatever I have learnt, I will just try to replicate it for UPCA.
Rinku Singh is known for scoring runs in a crunch situation. Watching him from close quarters, what do you think is the one thing that keeps him calm in difficult situations?
Rinku Singh has put in a lot of hard work and that is giving him results. When I used to have chats with him earlier, he used to tell me that at times he comes under some pressure.
He wasn’t a regular in the playing XI in the first three–four years and he wasn’t really getting that long run. Last year, he got that game time and he proved himself. That was the moment when he realised that he had the ability to provide a lot more to the team and also make additions to his batting. He got that belief and that was probably the turning point in his career.
You shared a picture on social media after the conclusion of the match between KKR and MI with Rohit Sharma that was captioned, “Special connection, special conversation” in the last edition. Tell us about your bond with Rohit.
I was a part of Mumbai Indians in the initial years and we used to have a lot of conversations then. I was young and pretty shy at that time and also had players like Sachin Tendulkar around me.
Last year, I had a chat with Rohit Bhaiya and we were discussing about the captaincy only. I was asking him how to go about the things. He told me that it’s all about mindset. “As a captain, your role is to manage things. For instance, what kind of a bowling change is required or probably which bowler will bowl in what situation.” He further added that there is no need to take any added pressure. “You will make mistakes on a number of occasions but there’s a lot to learn,” he told me.
I just kept this in mind and I’m the kind of person who isn’t really afraid of making mistakes. I just feel you learn more from your mistakes and gain a lot of experience from them.
How do you maintain a balance between bat and ball?
I haven’t bowled in IPL but I have been bowling since my childhood. I’m a proper all-rounder and not just a part-time spinner. I have bowled during my domestic and club matches.
The one good thing about an all-rounder is that if he is not able to contribute with the bat, he can do it with the ball. I just feel lucky that I have both the skills.
Are you following any specific drills for red-ball cricket?
I haven’t really thought much about it. I’m right now playing the UP T20 league and then there is SMAT coming up, and then there is the Vijay Hazare Trophy. So, for the next two–three months, there is a lot of white-ball cricket that is lined up.
I have that (red-ball format) in the back of my mind. I want to score runs for myself in that format and not for anyone else. I know I have scored runs in this format earlier as well, so I can do it again. In fact, I scored runs in red-ball cricket and based on that I got my break in white-ball format.
During the Covid-19 time, the Ranji Trophy wasn’t happening. So, I wasn’t really practicing for the red-ball format during that time because there was more white-ball cricket that was happening at that point in time. I admit that I was taking red-ball cricket a bit easy but that’s not how it works. You need to spend time to sustain in this format. I’m surely focusing on that and getting runs in the red-ball format again.
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