Prajakta Pawar in Centurion
I work equally hard on my batting and bowling: Pawan Negi
Left-arm spinner says advice of DD coaches and players has helped him
The promising young left-arm spinner has always had a tendency to punch above his weight from a very young age. When he went to bowl in the nets as boy, the coach there was worried if his delivery would even reach the batsman. But the small-sized bowler surprised everyone with a beamer.
“I was 8-9 years old when I started playing cricket, we used to play in our locality initially and I asked my father to send me for coaching. Then I started playing at the Nehru Stadium. When I first went there for trial I was very small, and I used to bowl medium pace. Seeing the big boys who were also there I was worried how I was going to perform vis-à-vis them. But when I was given the ball, my first delivery was a beamer and it had gone over the head of the batsman and I was selected.”
“The coach, Mohan Sharma, who was there at the time, later told me that he was wondering whether my delivery would even reach the batsman but it went over the batsman’s head. After I was selected and I attended coaching for three months. After that I shifted to RP Academy in Gargi College in South Delhi because it was close to my house and I was very young. Since then for the last nine-ten years I have been practicing there,” he said.
However, injury added a twist to the tale and threatened to take away his most cherished dream of being a cricketer at a very tender age. But Negi was not the type to give up and decided to convert himself to a left-arm spinner and focus on his batting.
“It has been three-four years since I have been bowling spin. For a year in the Under-15 I played as a pacer. I had taken six wickets on debut against Haryana but the very next year I had suffered from severe back pain and wasn’t able to bowl. Despite seeking consultation from various doctors and trying a lot it didn’t subside. They would advise me to rest but that didn’t help either. So I decided to bowl spin and strengthen by batting and make it my plus point. I used to talk to the other spinners at the academy and ask them how to bowl. Thus, gradually I started bowling spin,” he said.
“Slowly as I worked on my bowling it improved and I got better at it.”
Belonging to a family where no one had played the game before, he made the tough calls himself at a very a young age. But they have been supportive in his pursuit.
“I always had family support. They don’t play cricket so they don’t interfere either. Initially when I wasn’t playing much, they would tell me to study simultaneously. They would ask me focus on my studies but when I started playing well, they were okay with it and wouldn’t force me too much to study,” he said.
The youngster has now earned a place for himself in the DD side and is also spoken about as a promising young talent by his coaches and senior teammates. “My journey so far has been good. My performance in the Under-19 team was good and they had recommended me for the Ranji Trophy camp,” he said.
“I was first selected for playing in the domestic Twenty20 tournament [Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy] where I performed well. In every match I had claimed two-three wickets and done well with the bat as well. There was one game in which we needed eight runs off two balls and I had hit a six off the first, and then scored the reaming two and won the game for the team. Viru Bhaiyya [Virender Sehwag] who was also playing in the match was very impressed with the performance. He congratulated me and also asked if I would like to play for DD. I said yes,” he recalled. “The Daredevils officials had also seen me perform at the time and had spoken to me,” he said.
Negi who also enjoys his batting has on occasion contributed with the bat for DD. “I work on my batting as much as I work on my bowling. But when I come in to bat you can’t think much because at that point the last two-three overs are left, so you have to hit the ball and I tend to get out in the process.”
But he is learning that it isn’t always prudent to hit the ball like he did during the first match against the Kolkata Knight Riders and get out. “The coach had spoken to me after the match and Trent [Woodhill] had also talked to me about it. Irfan [Pathan] Bhai also told me that since we had lost too many wickets I shouldn’t have tried to hit the shots. It was important to take singles. So we wouldn’t have wasted the one over if we had taken singles.”
A student of the game, Negi is eager to learn and make the most of the opportunity presented to him by virtue of being part of the Delhi Daredevils. “I have learnt from this because if we had taken singles we would have had more runs. So I take it as lesson and hope not to repeat the mistakes,” he added.
“My role while batting is to give the strike to the main batsmen as much as possible. And if I am playing with the tail, then I can play my shots.”
The interactions with senior international players have helped him hone his skills. Speaking about the experiences he said, “It has been a good opportunity. When I bowl to international players here, it helps me assess my bowling and work on it. This also helps me when the domestic season starts as well especially while bowling in one-day matches.”
“The advice that I get has made a difference to my bowling. The advice from TA Sekar sir and Eric Simons has helped me improve. They have talked to me about the rotation of my arm. So that helped me a lot too.”
“When I had started playing with the Daredevils they also told me that my follow through after bowling a delivery is not complete so I started working on it. I worked on it during the off-season as well and now I am better,” he elaborated.
“There are other benefits as well. When I bowl to the likes Mahela Jayawardene in the nets it helps me understand in which areas to bowl and which areas not to bowl,” he mentioned.
“When there is a match they tell us who has what weakness. Having played with each other they know so they tell you about it. And tell you how to bowl,” he added.
“If I go for runs after bowling a good ball no one says anything but if go for runs after bowling a bad ball then they tell me where I went wrong and what I should have done instead.”
Speaking about playing in the CLT20 here he said, “I have come to South Africa for the first time. There is a lot of difference between the pitches here and the ones back home. The ball rises over here so that helps. But the grounds here are small so the mis-hits are also likely go for a six.”
He has had the opportunity to play the matches here ahead of the other left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem who is also his pal. “Nadeem is a very good friend of mine and I learn a lot from him because he is playing Ranji for the last four five years, while I have been played only for a year. He is a very experienced bowler. He tells me things about the batsmen as he has been playing since before me. And helps me,” he concluded.
Like most young left-arm spinners, he is inspired by Daniel Vettori but the opportunity to interact with the veteran left-arm spinner during IPL has eluded him thus far. Now, he hopes to meet his idol someday soon.