I immediately commenced preparing for the 2016/17 cricket season with the help of Dominic Tran (whom I also met in the preseason training). I helped him deal with deliveries pitched around off-stump, and he helped me with my footwork against spin. Whenever the weather was good, we trained in Weetangera nets on Sunday late afternoons; otherwise, we would be at the Kaleen Indoor Sports complex on the early Sunday afternoons.
Both of us had benefited from the practice sessions with both bat and ball. I had tried the James Anderson wobble ball, which at times became a problematic ball for Dominic to negotiate when it swung into him (he’s a left-hander) and then seamed away. I still ensured that I got my stock delivery the inswinger (outswinger to a right-handed bat) to work. I also experimented with off-spin by using the principles that I learned for pace bowling since he needed to practice against spin bowling by hoping to use his feet to decide whether he should go back or forward. As a result, I gained loop and flight, which also troubled Dominic a lot, and since I was bowling cross-seam, some would turn, and some would slide on. I felt I had another string to my bow, but unfortunately, I never tried to bowl spin ever since.
Cricket aside, I had been working on my fitness also since I felt I needed to be fit for grade cricket. I got ideas from Luke on the muscles I should be developing to be able to enhance my skills. Then I sought some initial help from the trainers at Anytime Fitness to help me build muscle the correct way. Although the cost was significantly more than the basic membership, I felt it was money well spent. Gradually, the fat started to melt away. At the end of the previous season, I was 86 kgs, and I gradually lost 5 kgs. It was a good start, but It will be useful to lose as long as I don’t get too thin, which will then make everyone puzzled about my health. I haven’t mentioned this to anyone, but I was inspired by the success story of a family friend in Tarun Sharma. I learned that he became very fit through dedication and discipline despite his busy work-life schedule. We are quite similar people in a way that we both love playing sport and keeping fit and healthy.
Without much thought, I wanted to play 100 games, score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets in grade within 10-15 years. As long as I stay fit and not injure myself much, I can achieve all my goals within the specified timeframe.
It meant I have to play at least 7-10 games, score at least 70-100 runs, and take 7-10 wickets each season. It should be achievable. I’ll be happy if I score at least 10 runs or take at least a wicket per game.
Change in Ginninderra was in the air as they had hired a former Tiger in Mick Delaney, who was a former ACT Comet and South Australian fast bowler. He had captained and coached Weston Creek Molonglo to a title a couple of years ago, which was one of the main reasons why the club brought him into the club. Going through his video interview on YouTube, I also learned that Ginninderra was a stepping stone towards him getting the South Australia contract, and he was happy to be back.
I liked Mick’s ambition and desire to help the club improve in their on-field performances. I was also grateful that he wanted to commence pre-season training sooner rather than later because, in his words, “the season will be around before you know it.” I was very eager to commence pre-season myself, so I was grateful that he was beginning early.
From the moment pre-season started, I always had looked forward to attending the sessions. I enjoyed all the drills that he introduced for batting, bowling, and fielding, which helped those who participated in these sessions to build from the base so that we will be all set to when the season came around. It was the first time ever that I enjoyed fielding training. To be honest, I used to hate it so much, particularly when we get penalized for dropping catches, which isn’t fair because people don’t mean to drop them. Now, I enjoyed it because Mick made them fun and a good learning experience if we ever stuffed up. I even told Mick myself on Facebook, and he appreciated the feedback. I had really felt that I made the right choice to train with Ginninderra. I wanted to improve, and it has been a great environment to work on your skills to get better.
Unfortunately, once the mid-week training sessions started in September, I wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind. I admit that I was distracted, but I had my reasons. I had begun doing after-hours duties at work, which meant I had to be accessible to the phone at all times. Besides, I got engaged on September 3, and I was also distracted with my interstate trips in late September to early October.
Nevertheless, the interstate trips helped me an excellent refreshing break ahead of the cricket season. I went to Adelaide and Perth during this time. Adelaide will remain memorable to me for years to come. I arrived in Adelaide on September 24th afternoon, intending to surprise my fiancee, Neethu, on her 24th birthday. It had been on my mind for some time, and it was closer to the time that I told her parents, who then advised a couple of Neethu’s friends who were looking after the program, Akhil, a.k.a Sonu and Anjutha, a.k.a Anju. Basically, I was in touch with both Sonu and Anju regarding the plans for my surprise entry, and then Sonu’s parents were involved in the planning. On the night before I left, we were quickly going through the events and the motions, as I wanted to ensure that everything went to plan.
While it was a good start that I arrived in Adelaide on time, things didn’t quite go to plan. The idea was that I would be ready to leave my hotel room in the nearby Adelaide Inn by 6.30, but instead, it was only after 7pm that Sonu’s dad asked me to make my way to Arya’s Indian Restaurant.
Due to the unforeseen delays, I was to wait in the main restaurant until the video I created for the occasion was to commence playing. I was grateful that I was offered drinks by the manager, and given that I hardly ate anything since lunch at Sydney Airport and some cookies on the flight to Adelaide, I took advantage by drinking two tall glasses of Mango Lassi (yogurt drink). Considering that dinner at the party was to be served until 8.30 or so, these drinks came at the right time; otherwise, I would have collapsed or fainted.
When the video started playing, Sonu’s dad Ramesh took me closer to the hall where I was to wait in the bar until the Malayalam song, Arikil Pathiye, started playing. My cover nearly got blown during this time when a lady stepped out of the hall with her baby daughter and sat herself down opposite me. She asked me via sign language about my presence or something to that effect, and I immediately nodded my head. As I later came to know, she was Neethu’s Kathak dance teacher who recently gave birth to her baby daughter.
The Arikil Pathiye song commenced and I soon with a rose in hand made my way into the small hall in front of sixty guests and promptly went down on one knee in front of a blindfolded Neethu (who had no idea what was going on at the time) and holding a rose in front. Before too long, Sonu removed the blindfolded, and she was shocked that I was there in front of her. After the initial drama, it later became a fun-filled night and had a chance to meet all the guests and enjoy a much-deserved dinner. The party simply went on till 11.30pm when I eventually arrived back in my hotel room.
After the memorable visit to Adelaide, I arrived in Perth on Monday morning. I mostly stayed at home with parents and watching some cricket, India vs. New Zealand test matches, but I had a chance to catch up with Luke for one last time before the season was about to start.
For once, my session with Luke went very well. He liked my progress with bat and ball and my physique and provided little suggestions to improve with both bat and ball. He also asked me to work on my trunk rotation, which I have read before in Dennis Lillee’s autobiography, Menace. He simply told me that I had come a long way since I started working with him in 2013, and he’s happy with the progress and hard work I had put in.
I returned back to Canberra on the 3rd of October, but I couldn’t return to mid-week training due to after-hours duties again, which also means that I had to withdraw from selections for the opening weekend, which will be Twenty20s. As it turned out, only 1st and 2nd grades played while the 3rd and 4th grades were to be played at a later date. So I didn’t miss much.
The season was now fast approaching.