Surendra Rathore is a famous coach in Jaipur. Everyone knows his place, and at times, all you need to do is to follow the sweet sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat. In a few minutes, you will get to the practice area. He had perfect nets, but the ground was a bit bumpy.
It was yet another normal day in Rathore’s life until an eight-year-old caught his eye. The kid was running and catching the ball with ease. He almost caught, fielded every single delivery that came by his way. Rathore was surprised to see the kid’s commitment. He learnt that his name was Kamlesh and he was here with his brother. Inspired by his reflexes, Rathore immediately called Kamlesh’s brother and asked to enrol his brother to Sanskar Academy in Jaipur. And there began Kamlesh’s career.
Kamlesh comes from Bharsali-Jajurali village in Bageshwar district. His father was a retired Army officer, and cricket was always a priority in the house. While Kamlesh played Basketball as well, Cricket slowly took over. Kamlesh and his brother were sent to Jaipur Army school for better studies. Lesser did they know that Kamlesh’s cricket training would make them stay in the place like forever. His father even bought a single-bedroom house in Jaipur with all his retirement money to support Kamlesh’s training.
Kamlesh was taller than the average kids of his age, and that helped him to bowl faster than the kids of his age. He had the natural ability to swing the ball, and Rathore helped him to master the delivery and also the yorker. He would practice four days a week in the academy and would participate in the matches as well.
Always competitive, Kamlesh wanted to be the best in whatever he did. He wanted to bowl fast, lead the wickets chart. However, he couldn’t make it to the Under-14 Rajasthan squad initially. The boy was hard on himself, and it took a toll on him. He began to doubt his abilities. Rathore had to talk him through and asked him to work hard.
Kamlesh worked on his accuracy and things changes since then. He became a regular in Under-14, Under-16 camp. He soon made it to the Under-19 camp. Rahul Dravid took a personal interest in his growth, and he made him work on his swing bowling. Soon, he debuted in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and took a hattrick as well. Soon, he was called up for trials by multiple IPL teams including Mumbai Indians.
He was excellent in the England tour and right when he returned, a tear in his shoulder kept him away from the action for three months. Thankfully, he had Dravid by his side who made sure that the injuries were part of the game. Dravid’s words kept him going. Kamlesh soon recovered and was a part of Under-19 World Cup. Along with his bowling partner Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh made the headlines for his speed and swing.
Then the IPL auction happened. Kamlesh spent the whole day in the washroom because of the anxiety during the auction. Though he always wanted to play for Rajasthan Royals because of home connection, he, as expected, out of words when KKR bought him.
Everything was going all fine for the youngster. He was supposed to make debut in IPL 2018 and was supposed to rule the world. Unfortunately, the injury took over. Fractured foot, ankle, a lower back injury kept him away from the game for more than 15 months, and he missed two IPL seasons with KKR. For two straight seasons, KKR made sure that Kamlesh was doing well and was in constant touch with him.
Kamlesh was left alone at the NCA Camp. He was away from his game, family, studies, house and his friends. He would even watch his own bowling because he feared that he would forget the game. While his Under-19 teammates made waves in the IPL and got into the senior team, he was still out there far away from the game. It did take a toll on him. It wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. The constant “why me?” questions killed his mental health. He wanted to get away from the place, he wanted to perform. His father asked him to make peace with the situation and asked him to stay calm.
Saha, who was also at NCA, watched Kamlesh and took him under his wing. He made sure that the kid was in the right mindset. They began to have lunch together and then slowly began to spend time with each other. Saha’s career path inspired Kamlesh. Saha shared about struggles and injuries and sometimes, they talked about films and stuff away from cricket. They watched matches, films together. Pooja Vastrakar would also join, and Saha guided them.
Dravid, at NCA, saw Kamlesh playing Table Tennis once. He noticed that he was sad. He had a long talk with him, said that he had to keep moving forward as living in the past wasn’t right. He also spoke about Pat Cummins’s struggles with injuries and how he bounced back and is ruling the world currently.
By the end of December, Kamlesh was all fit. Well, at least he thought. He was selected in the Emerging team, only to miss out by another injury.
This time, it was a short one. He had Abhishek Nayar to take care of his mental health. He went back to his childhood coach Rathore to help him change his action a bit. KKR’s bowling coach and Rathore helped him to fine-tune.
He slowly began his training and reached the UAE, where Pat Cummins had a chat with him about his journey and helped him to recover mentally.
Kamlesh might not have made the headline as he would have thought, but he is taking step by step and is making sure to stay fit. He is taking inspiration from everywhere and is learning a skill every day. Thankfully, he is a good listener. Maybe, not today. Not tomorrow. Not this season. In a season or two, Kamlesh will be there on the top in the list of best pacers from India.
Inspiring Story of Kamlesh Nagarkoti | KKR | IPL 2020 | Penbugs