Hyderabad: Don’t be deceived by his lean frame. Give him a new cricket ball, he can make it talk with seam and swing. Meet the engineer-cum-fast bowler Rajneesh Gurbani, the bowling sensation of Vidarbha. Making his first class debut in 2016, this young 25-year-old played a huge role in Vidarbha’s maiden Ranji Trophy title triumph this season. He emerged as the second highest wicket-taker in first class cricket this season with 39 wickets.
In the city for the Vijay Hazare one-day tournament, Gurbani has credited his success to his two coaches, Chandrakant Pandit and Subroto Banerjee.
“They were instrumental in giving shape to my first class career. I have become a much better bowler. I have become sharp and found ways to take wickets. I have developed some skills in my bowling thanks to our bowling coach Subroto sir. I’m able to bowl the in-swingers now. I’m a great fan of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. I wanted to swing both ways. So I asked Subroto sir that I wanted to learn in swingers. At that time we were having practice matches so he didn’t have time. Chandrakant Pandit sir came during that time. Once we had bowlers’ meeting, he told Subroto sir that I bowl good out-swingers and bouncers. I should learn to bowl in swingers. Agar usko bolanga agar inswinger dalsaktha kya (If I ask him to bowl in-swingers, can he bowl). Then Subroto sir was on the job teaching me the in-swingers. I only bowled in-swingers for two days, starting with shorter run ups. I was very keen that I learn the in-swinger and I was fortunate to have a good coach in Subroto sir. I knew that I can meet success if I have both in and out swingers in my bowling.”
Gurbani said that having someone like Umesh Yadav in the Vidarbha team is a great confidence booster. “He fields at mid-off and that is an added advantage for young bowlers like us. I feel very relaxed whenever he is at mid-off.”
According to Gurbani, the present Indian pace bowlers of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohd Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Jasprit Bumrah are role models for young fast bowlers. “If Australia has been able to produce good fast bowlers because they had plenty of role models playing for their country. For instance we have some great batsmen, so we have good batsmen in the country. Now, with quality fast bowlers in India, it is an inspiration to follow in their footsteps.”
Fast bowling came naturally to Gurbani. However, he got into serious cricket when he was asked to bowl in fifth standard. But he got the first big breakthrough when he was selected for the Vidarbha under-19 team. “It gave me hope that I could continue my career in cricket.”
But there were more problems as his family and friends did not see Gurbani’s future in cricket. “Initially, when I did not get a chance to play big-time cricket, my parents were little apprehensive. If there was no Ranji Trophy, I was idle at home. Though now I have a government job, a few doubted my future in cricket. They wanted me to pursue my career in other field as I was an engineering student. But my father had confidence in me and that helped me continue my career in cricket. He was a huge source of inspiration to me.”
Gurbani said he bowls at 135 km. “I will look to improve my strength and power. The next important tournament is the Irani Trophy. That is one of the biggest tournaments that Vidarbha will be playing. I’m not thinking about my next step and my only concern is how to improve my bowling.”
The fast bowling sensation said his coaches have said that whatever he had done was history. “I’m not thinking what I will become in future. It is important to work hard and work towards your goals. It is nothing different for me. I’m now focusing on how I can improve my bowling.”
Coach Pandit believes Gurbani is an exciting prospect. “If he works hard and adds an extra yard of pace, he can make a mark in international cricket. He has the ability to bat too and he has to work on this aspect too.”