After all-round show in Vijay Hazare Trophy, Karan Kaila hopes to earn Ranji debut
CHANDIGARH: Bowls too quick for a spinner, can't hit sixes - despite his scoring loads of runs and taking heaps of wickets in junior cricket, this was the state selectors' criticism of Punjab all-rounder Karan Kaila until his all-round show in Vijay Hazare Trophy.
In these nine limited-overs matches, he was the highest wicket taker for Punjab with 14 scalps. He also played useful knocks down the order that helped the team win a couple of nail-biters. His 47 runs batting at number 8 and a bowling analysis of 4 for 22 against Uttar Pradesh in Vadodara made him the player of the match.
Rain denied Punjab a chance to enter the semifinals despite their having an upper hand against Tamil Nadu. The opponents progressed by the virtue of winning more games (nine) in the league phase than Punjab (five). Kaila, 25, said: "Bowing out like this was unfortunate, heart-breaking for all of us. After fighting it out in the A and B groups-which had the best 18 teams- we feel robbed. This rule doesn't make any sense."
The team has found a new match winner in Karan Kaila-the words of skipper Mandeep Singh will ease the pain. Kalia said: "It was the first time I was with the senior team for a full tournament. Right from the camp stage, the skipper and the coach (Munish Bali) kept communicating with me. In any level of cricket, if you don't have the backing of your captain and coach, you can't do much. The team bonding was superb and I am glad to have contributed to the squad."
It's hard to believe that a player who has shared the India U-19 dressing room with Kuldeep Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, and Sanju Samson in the 2014 junior world cup has played only 11 List 'A' games for Punjab since the debut four years ago, despite one stellar performance after the other. Kaila, whose parents are doctors, has been knocking on the doors of Punjab selectors for A few years now.
Asked to compare self with the contemporaries, Kalia said: "All of them (Kuldeep, Sanju, and Shreyas) are top players of their Ranji Trophy sides and have also gone on to represent the country at the highest level, while I have lagged behind. I wish to restart my journey and play as many first-class matches as possible."
There's no denying that Kalia has the performances to impress the selectors. He led Punjab to Col C K Nayudu Trophy (under-23) in the season 2016-17. He picked up 49 wickets, 9 wickets in one innings against Andhra Pradesh in the final at Dhruv Pandove Stadium in Patiala. He missed the perfect 10 by a whisker but won M A Chidambaram Trophy for the tournament's highest wicket-taker. Next year, he guided this team to a one-day title as well.
Dealing with rejection
Rejection can be a blessing in disguise for the players determined to prove their detractors wrong. But disappointment is still hard to deal with. About his experience with it, Kalia said: "After coming back from the World Cup, I used to imagine being able to represent my state like my teammates, but that didn't happen."
Asked how he keeps his heart, Kalia said: "Having been Punjab's consistent performer at four levels the age-group cricket (14, 16, 19, and 23), I am not the one to lose hope. The fighter in me keeps egging me on. There is a saying that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. I am a positive person, who knows his opportunity will come if he keeps working harder."
Kaila, who endured one too many swings of fortune in his career, is preparing for Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He said: "Distraught after what happened in Vijay Hazare, we want to make amends in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Thereafter, I hope to make my Ranji debut by the dint of hard yards I have done." The wait is on but one hopes it ends soon.