Injuries and setbacks have unfortunately been a dear friend for Punjab’s Siddarth Kaul.
A hamstring injury left both him and his side in a spot of bother in the initial stages of the Ranji Trophy before the 29-year-old bounced back with three five-wicket hauls in as many games.
An all-round performance on his comeback against Kerala was overshadowed by Jalaj Saxena’s seven-for, but Kaul has spearheaded Punjab’s attack since with 25 wickets in four games, including a hat-trick against Andhra. Now, as the tournament enters its final round before the knockouts, in his radar are the Bengal batsmen.
If he keeps the momentum going, it is likely to leave him in a place to achieve his dream of winning the Ranji Trophy.
“I think we should not be thinking about Bengal or the opposition. We have been playing as a team and we have to continue doing that like what we have been doing for the last three or four months,” Kaul told Cricketnext over telephone from Patiala as Punjab prepared for Bengal, who are a couple of points ahead of them in the race for the quarter-finals.
“We have a very good unit of guys and we have to play according to the situation.”
The mantra for the right arm pacer, who can be recognised from a mile thanks to the headband he sports, is simple – perform or perish.
A year ago Kaul was in the Indian dugout during the T20I series against Australia, hoping to make his case for an extended run. That was not to be. Nonetheless, he picked himself up and went straight back to the drawing board.
“It was a good thing for me because it told me I was not good enough. It is better to go back and make more efforts and corrections in your game. So that next time there is no chance of not being picked. I was thinking about how to improve and how to make myself better, which has eventually led to my performances recently. Performance at the right time and place will be more effective than thinking about what has happened,” Kaul explained rather nonchalantly.
“I am focused on ensuring that I become an important member of my team. Whether it is in crisis or in a good time I want to be the player the captain turns to. All I am thinking of is doing my best for whichever team I play and keep my mindset steady.”
Kaul has had up-and-down fortunes in recent years. He was instrumental in the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s run to the final in the 2018 IPL, where he was the most successful Indian bowler with 21 wickets to his name. The season prior to that, he finished with 16 wickets from 10 games in the IPL for SRH. However, Kaul played only 7 matches for 6 wickets in IPL 2019.
“I think my mind was clear then from performing well in the domestic games and then coming into the IPL you feel confident. Whenever you perform well it gives you a good boost in confidence and your approach to the wicket is different, the rhythm is different.
“The thought process is very different.”
Punjab’s pace spearhead is slowly hitting the same heights this season too, as India finalise on their combinations in the build-up to the T20 World Cup in October. One of the few bowlers who can move the ball both ways, Kaul will need to have a stellar season to make his way back into the scheme of things.
“The IPL is indeed a big platform to get selected, but what I think is that if I perform everyone will notice and if I don’t they won’t. For me performance is the most important thing.
“I am not thinking of the IPL, I am just concentrating on the upcoming games. And I will make sure that I give my best for my team.”
Kaul’s determination to put his best forward is unerring, much like how he went about his hat-trick against Andhra.
“I was not thinking about hat-trick. And I was just thinking about where to bowl and how to get the wicket. Then after I got the first and second wickets, then I just thought that let me try to repeat it again.”
The result – he knocked over the middle stump each and every time.
The road back to the Indian team will be difficult, but he would rather have the selectors do their jobs while he does his – bend his back and hit the deck no matter the conditions.
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