How would you describe the past one year, in which your life has changed dramatically?
God has been kind to me. I bowled with very good rhythm throughout the Ranji season and became a leading run scorer (594 runs) and a wicket-taker (33 wickets) for Jammu & Kashmir. I got a chance to bowl for the Indian team during the net sessions before a couple of ODI games. I also took seven wickets against Australia, playing for Board President XI which helped me take seven wickets against Australia.
Playing cricket in Jammu & Kashmir must be tough, considering the weather and other factors.
I remember I used to go to Delhi to play cricket during the winters! We have some really good quality players in our state. It is just that we have to work harder than the others because we don’t have good infrastructural facilities in Kashmir. But it is commendable that even without such facilities, we are able to churn out some quality cricketers.
What do you mean by lack of facilities and infrastructure?
Well, for example, we don’t have turf wickets. So we play on matting wickets. When we go to play competitive cricket outside our state, we play on turf wickets. That is too tough an adjustment. It’s a totally different ball game altogether. On matting wickets, there is not much turn, and there is bounce. So as a batsman, you play back. I had to work really hard to adjust to the turf wickets. As a batsman, I had to adjust my lengths and variations.
With the kind of conditions in your State, lot of players prefer to be pace bowlers or batsmen. How did you become an off-spinner?
I started as a wicketkeeper-batsman. I once bowled off-spin during the net session in my club, where Qayuum sir saw me and said, ‘No more wicket-keeping for you. You bowl off-spin from now on.’
Not many Indian spinners have managed to impress Bishen Singh Bedi. But you are an exception!
He has had a huge impact on me. When he saw me for the first time, in nets, he said, ‘You are the best off-spinner in Jammu & Kashmir, and you would grow up to become the first player to represent the state for India’. I took my cricket really seriously after that advice. He taught me how to flight the ball and deceive the batsman.
You had a wonderful 2012-13 season. What, according to you made the real difference?
Like I said, I have worked really hard on my bowling under Bedi sirs’ guidance. He asked me to practice with just one stump and it helped me with my lines, lengths and angles. I have worked very hard in the single-wicket practice, and the results are evident.