The lockdown due to COVID-19 forced a lot of changes in the world of cricket. Tighter travel restrictions were put in place, bio-bubbles were introduced to eradicate contact with the outside world and most found themselves indoors when the pandemic was affecting millions of lives both in India and around the world.
For every cricketer, getting their drills going inside the four walls was a real challenge; fitness levels too dropped due to no outside exposure. For 21-year-old Sai Sudarshan, however, the phase was an eye-opener of sorts with regard to his fitness. The youngster was determined to turn it around during those testing times.
Also Read: ‘Amit Mishra Will be Used as an Impact Player’: Coach Explains Why LSG Have Bought The Veteran Spinner
On the fatter side during his early days, Sai made the hard choice of dropping his favourite pizza, pasta and replaced them with healthier options. A proper training regime followed and the youngster upped his fitness standards considerably during the lockdown period.
“I was a bit fat during my younger days, a bit stout. But now the training, diet, strength training… everything has changed. Thanks to my parents… I have been working with them for the past three years now. The lockdown period set the tone for it and now it’s become my routine. Training every day, proper stretching… all aspects related to health are now being looked at,” says Sudarshan in an exclusive chat with News18 Cricketnext at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi.
No pizza, pasta; only healthy eating
The classy left-hander added that it wasn’t a problematic regime to inculcate and he was focused on the overall picture – of being fit and ready for the long days ahead.
“I didn’t feel like that following this regime was difficult because it’s very purposeful and very useful for what we are doing. I used to eat a lot of pasta and pizza but I am happy that I am not eating it now. I am not missing them so much. I have replaced them with chicken breast or healthier options. These small small things make a lot of difference to the game. That understanding I got during the lockdown time,” says Sudarshan.
Having parents - father R. Bharadwaj represented India at the South Asian Games and mother Usha Bharadwaj too has played for the state’s volleyball team - who have played sport at a higher level helped create that culture at home and the youngster feels these “small small things” will only help prolong his cricketing career.
“Even my parents helped me a lot because my father has also represented India so he knows what it takes to be fit to prolong your career, to be fitter for a longer season. That has helped me a lot,” says Sudarshan.
Sudarshan has had a dream start for Tamil Nadu and has already hit two First-class centuries in the first two games against Hyderabad and Andhra respectively. He sits with a List A average of 60.36 and scored 610 runs in 8 Vijay Hazare Trophy fixtures this year. The season saw him dominate with N Jagadeesan at the top of the order and the southpaw hit three hundreds too. Still early days in the Ranji Trophy but it’s been a dream start for the 21-year-old with two tons already under his belt.
“Definitely it was a good start to the Ranji Trophy season. I am looking forward to more good performances for the team. I think I have prepared well and that is only reflecting on the ground. I think the preparations were very good,” says Sudarshan.
There was a hundred on the FC debut for the youngster but it was the 20-ball 42, chasing a nearly impossible target, which made everyone sit up and notice. His whirlwind knock was laced with five daddy hits over the ropes.
Has power-hitting been one of the areas he has worked on?
“Actually I think I was in good positions so that only resulted in good shots. I haven’t really worked on power hitting specifically,” says Sudarshan.
The stint with Gujarat Titans
After making waves in the age-group circuit and then the Tamil Nadu Premier League, Sudarshan was picked by Gujarat Titans at the mega-auction earlier this year. He didn’t play all the games but gave enough signs of things to come. He reveals that the stint with the defending champions made a “huge difference” to his game and has equipped him to handle pressure and match situations better.
“IPL has made a big difference, huge difference. There’s a lot of difference actually in handling the pressure. Even in the net sessions, the quality of the bowlers. Each and every bowler is challenging to play. Those things are very useful when you come to play in the domestic circuit so that bit has helped my batting. You know it’s more about adapting to the situation for the team. If there’s a situation to bat longer, I will definitely do that. I am just reacting to the situation and doing the best for the team,” says Sudarshan.
From what plenty of players have revealed and what could be seen from a distance is the calm and fun atmosphere in the GT dugout. It’s more of the same even in the one-on-one conversations with youngsters like Sudarshan.
ALSO READ | MS Dhoni Gave Me Lots of Advice When I Was in CSK; Looking Forward to Play for KKR - Narayan Jagadeesan
“We (with Hardik Pandya or Ashish Nehra) don’t have that many big long conversations. It will be very crisp and sharp. It will be more specific and not speak too much, just to the point. It will be very clear, very calm. Everything related to match situations, how to adapt and how to control your emotions,” says Sudarshan.
Excited to meet Kane Williamson
Gujarat Titans recently got Kane Williamson at the mini-auction in Kochi. The experienced campaigner will join the side for the upcoming edition and Sudarshan, all smiles and beaming with joy, just can’t wait to interact with the “legend” and share thoughts with him in the dressing room.
“I am very excited to meet him. I think after the game (in the IPL against SRH), I was speaking to him, like, for half an hour. It was really nice. I am looking forward to meeting him, and sharing the dressing room and thoughts with him. The mindset, how he approaches the game, everything. He is one of the legends of the game,” says Sudarshan.
Get the latest Cricket News, Schedule and Cricket Live Scores here