“Play up! play up! and play the game!”
English poet Sir Henry Newbolt’s prominent poem Vitai Lampada, which is about a schoolboy cricketer, includes this verse that recapitulates the defining moment in Jodhpur-born Karun Nair’s international career so far in Tests, where his average is a staggering 160.
While notching up triple centuries – cricketers require skills, stamina, followed by patience and sheer luck and not to forget, plenty of body blows. Eventually, then it becomes an overall achievement for them to boast about it.
In childhood, once in our lives, we had preferred to thud the ball more than our capacity, but now the things turned as many are being seen occupying the grounds either to play cricket or football.
In a similar way, Karun Nair, who had weak lungs at a tender age – seemingly has been emulating former Indian legendary batsman Rahul Dravid since he joined Frank Anthony Public School in Bangalore.
There were two possible scenarios for Nair – to get hit or hit England hard to make it big in terms of figures.
Nair batted against time to achieve the unique feat of scoring a Test-triple hundred, hoping his skipper Virat Kohli wouldn’t declare before he could reach the mark. As it turned out, Nair was soon posing for the perfect photograph – arms outstretched and a look of relief on his otherwise deadpan face – on the Chepauk turf.
From a composite character to centurion, Chepauk in Chennai – Karun Nair stood tall among his teammates – to receive the standing ovation from his father and a mother, last but not the least his delighted teammates in the dressing room.
Isn’t it an incredible moment we all wait for – in our lives in one way or another?
“My parents supported me immensely in my life. They haven’t forced me for anything. They have backed me always when I had gone through rough patch,” Nair, the-25-year-old top-order batsman stated in one of his interviews.
Could you recall when Nair had lion’s share of unbeaten 303 at Chennai days after when Cyclone Vardah hit the region?
Let’s make it simple. He became the Nightmare Nair for English bowlers while flooring one after another. He crossed the milestones – hundred, two-hundred and three-hundred – with much ease, as if he has made a habit of solving the crossword puzzle to see him winning all rounds!
“There are huge numbers of sacrifices players make while practising every day,” Nair revealed.
His story is among those rare success stories, which first goes through an excruciating rough phase. Nair escaped a boat mishap in Kerala in July last year during a boat festival, when he had to be rescued by the locals at the Pamba River.
In cricket, there are emotions, then the crowd pressure, then proving the mettle when one has been picked by the selectors followed by some hiccups during the longer sessions of a Test match and Nair had it all before showing his pure class by registering his name into the record books.
The best compliment Nair feels came from former Indian batsman and Delhi-born dasher Virender Sehwag, who welcomed the latter by tweeting on his triple-figure mark.
Yay ! Welcome to the 300 club @karun126 .
It was very lonely here for the last 12 years 8 months.
Wish you the very best Karun.Maza aa gaya!
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) December 19, 2016
Last week, Nair had attended the I-League’s first game at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru between Shillong Lajong FC and Bengaluru FC.
“As a sportsman, it is wonderful to see a stadium full of passionate fans, turned out in team colors and supporting their heroes with such passion. Fan support is a huge motivation to us, when we are on the cricket field,” Nair said when he was at the Kanteerava Stadium.
Mustafa Ghouse, Chief Executive Officer of JSW Sports, presented the jersey to Nair at the half-time. The coveted jersey has Karun and special figure 303 embossed on it.
The 25-year-old Nair, who plays for Karnataka, performed very well in the first-class cricket before earning his maiden Test call against England in Mohali in November last year.
It was a grand short stint for Nair who has been rising against all tides since he emerged on the domestic scene. The crafty in stroke-making Nair has been the highlight of the five-match Anthony De Mello Trophy against visitors.
“Such feats did not happen overnight. Behind the scenes, only a player knows what one is going through,” remarked Nair on achieving the triple hundred.
In his third match of his Test career, the top-order batsman smashed an unbeaten 303 off 381 balls for India after going all guns blazing against England’s disciplined bowling attack in Chennai in the dead rubber. Team India also achieved their highest ever total in Test cricket 759 for 7, when declaration from skipper Virat Kohli came.
While training hard with dedication and thinking about the game is worth noting. It’s all that works for a cricketer like Nair.
Nair became one of the overnight sensations while becoming the second Indian batsman after the former opener Virender Sehwag, who scored 319 at the same venue against South Africa in 2008.
Nair also became the third cricketer in history to convert his maiden hundred into a triple-figure mark after Australian former great Bob Simpson and West Indies legendary batsman Gary Sobers. Dealing in a flurry of boundaries, Nair scored his maiden ton in 185 balls, followed by his double hundred in 306 balls.
In 2015 Ranji Trophy final, Nair also became the second player after 68 years of Ranji history to score a triple hundred while batting for 872 minutes in a final against Tamil Nadu after Baroda’s Gul Mohammad, who smashed 319 runs against Holkar in 1946-47.
“To reach 300 was just about watching the ball. I didn’t do anything special on that day. I played the ball according to the merit,” remarked Nair.
Everyone applauded in the dressing room after Nair nudged Adil Rashid through point. It was followed by the youngster raising his arms to celebrate the triple hundred, which included 32 boundaries and four sixes.
In his 41 first-class matches Nair has amassed 3191 runs at an average of 55 which includes 9 hundreds and 13 half-centuries.
Nair, who gave an insight about his success story, got a call in 2015 for the national side when he replaced Murali Vijay for Sri Lanka tour, but unfortunately didn’t get a game even after being consistent for his state-side Karnataka.
In 2016 Indian Premier League auction, Nair was sold for Rs 4 crore to Delhi Daredevils.
“I’m hopeful to continue and perform better for my country. Looking forward to play all formats for the national team,” Nair expressed.
In 2015-16 Ranji Trophy season, Nair played seven games to score 500 runs at an average of 50, which included two centuries and two fifties
In 2014-15, he scored a splendid 328 off 560 balls in the Ranji final against Tamil Nadu to clinch the coveted title for Karnataka. He had played 10 matches to score 709 at an average of 47.3.
“I want to continue the sport I love by giving my best in the field,” said Nair, who’s practising twice a day these days to keep himself fit for the game.
In 2014, Rajasthan Royals picked Nair in the squad where Nair was mentored by former veteran batsman Rahul Dravid before India A.
In 2013-14, while backing on his stellar of the performances, Nair smashed three hundreds in six games which included an unbeaten 151 in the Ranji semi-final clash against Punjab. While playing a pivotal role in title triumph, he amassed 494 runs at the whopping average of 61.8.
In 2012, Nair was picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore to feature in just two games.
Nair has gone through lot of hardships before making a mark in the international circuit where gentleman’s game dominates other sports in newspaper headlines.
Excerpts from an Interview with the rising sensation:
TIM: You became a public figure after your splendid knock of 303 where you started playing cricket?
KN: All that I can recall is when I first joined FAPS (Frank Anthony Public School) in Bangalore that was where it all started. The journey from there to what I want to achieve is still far away. I am working hard and let’s hope eventually I get there.
TIM: Who inspired you that you grew up admiring? Describe Rahul Dravid’s role in your progress?
KN: My Inspiration has always been Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar as I grew up as a cricketer.
Rahul Sir [Dravid] has always been a great mentor to me since I joined Rajasthan Royals in 2012. He still guides me and backs me, that has been a huge motivation to everything I am right today.
At the end of the day, you need someone to believe in you and guide you through; Rahul Sir has always been that man for me.
KN: Domestic Cricket is a huge platform to prove yourself as a cricketer and performing there has always been crucial for me. I am glad I’ve been consistent there.
Cricket in India is more than just a game not just for the fans but also for players like us and so many young talents who aspire to see themselves playing for the nation some day.
TIM: Describe the innings and feeling after scoring triple ton – your best shot during the marathon innings?
KN: It was the best feeling of course when I finally scored the triple hundred.
Honestly, it’s a feeling I wish I could explain. I had gone with the same strategy as in domestic to get past 30s and 40s to keep scoreboard ticking. I had played freely, but there is always a pressure when one reaches hundred. The best thing is I thrive under pressure.
While playing above the wicket-keeper’s head [upper cut] I felt that was the best shot I enjoyed. However, I have played few of them during the innings at Chennai.
TIM: The most memorable moment during the unbeaten knock of 303?
KN: I could probably say the presence of my parents at the stands watching me achieve this feat; I think that had made it more special.
TIM: You were also involved in a boat mishap in Kerala?
KN: There was no escaping at that time and I was lucky to come out as a survivor from the deep waters. It was all God’s grace.
TIM: How do you access the structure of cricket in different colleges across India and what has to be done?
KN: Well, I think Colleges in India have been really developing at a good pace in terms of their infrastructure for Sports. I think it’s not just cricket.
I’d suggest all kind of sports should be encouraged so that a few years down the line we (INDIA) are the best at every sport we play.