“Jharkhand has given me everything but I think sometimes a change of scene is good, whatever you're aspiring towards.”
Varun Aaron was candid in his confession. The decision to leave Jharkhand to represent Baroda on the domestic circuit wasn’t easy for him. But he understands that pragmatism should take precedence over emotions and it is a decision that can keep him in good stead in order to extend his career.
With Ambati Rayudu making a move back to Baroda once again, the Western Indian side have found a good combination of players in their roster. With Rayudu holding the batting unit together, they have Aaron now to create an impact with the ball. Not to forget the presence of Hardik Pandya and Krunal Pandya in and around the squad, when they are free from national duty, make Baroda an enviable side.
“I am excited because we've got a really good team, a great person in Dave Whatmore as coach, and [Ambati] Rayudu is leading the side, along with Krunal and Hardik [Pandya]. I am looking forward to the season, to play a different role, in a different culture—there’s so many different things, different factors. So, I'm really excited and looking forward to it,” Aaron told Cricket.com in an exclusive conversation.
It is prudent to notice that Aaron, who turned up for Gujarat Titans in the IPL 2022, played under Hardik Pandya for the first time and the skipper trusted him in the first half of the tournament. The return of Lockie Ferguson and success of Yash Dayal and Mohammed Shami meant Aaron had to warm the bench more often than not, but it surely allowed him a better understanding of Hardik's leadership.
“I haven't had a word with Hardik yet. He’s with the Indian team, so I haven’t spoken to him,” Aaron said after announcing his move to Baroda. “But definitely, him being in the side is great because I have played with him in the past—India A tours, and stuff like that. and I really look up to him as a cricketer.
“I have a lot of respect for Hardik, with the way he plays his game, the way he goes about it, his attitude—it's unbelievable. Like, the stuff he has done over the past one year, the way he has come back from injury, the kind of intensity he has. At the same time, he is very relaxed. He is a great guy as well. Getting to know these guys is always great because they are great cricketers.”
After making his first-class debut back in 2008, Aaron emerged as one of the prominent faces in a generation of fast bowlers. Him breaching the 150 kph barrier in the 2011 Vijay Hazare Trophy, when Jharkhand made history by winning the tournament for the first time, was so staggering that it was hard to keep him away from the spotlight.
But then one injury after another threatened to destroy his career. The Jharkhand pacer suffered two stress fractures on the back soon after his Ranji Trophy debut in 2008-09, and just when he made his debut for India, another back injury kept him out of India's tour of Australia in 2011-12. The same injury came out to haunt him once again and had him stay at his home for 15 months.
When he was regaining the momentum, a leg injury in 2014 almost ended his Test career. It was quite an eventful journey with the occupational hazard derailing his way but now wiser and stronger, Aaron wouldn’t like his journey to have been any different.
“I have no regrets at all. I have absolutely no bitterness with the way things have panned out. I think every individual has a different journey. Not everybody's journey will be as smooth or not everybody’s journey will be as rough. That said, my journey hasn’t ended in any way. I am still in a place where I'm really enjoying my bowling, my skills are improving every day. My understanding of my own bowling is improving.
“My fitness is right up there. So I believe that there's a lot more in me. I'm still playing at the highest level; I am playing in the IPL— we won the IPL this year. So, things are going well. But, obviously, I set very high standards for myself. I would like things to be better, obviously. But yeah, I'm sure things are gonna come my way in the times to come.”
“I've just been a bit unlucky to get some funny injuries—mostly bony injuries. But the thing is, that's part and parcel. If you're bowling fast for 15 years continuously, there are times when your body is going to be like, “Ok, you’ve got to slow down a bit.” I mean, I've never listened to my body. I’ve always listened to my heart. But I'm sure everything is going to come together and it will be something very beautiful,” Varun added.
In Bangalore, Aaron had a two-month session with Sudarshan VP, the former Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Indian Cricket team, apart from working with a mobility coach that has helped him manage his pace and injuries in the right way. He believes it certainly helped him get back in shape for the upcoming season and he is raring to go.
“I train twice a day for six days a week. There's a lot of different stuff I do. I've had a really, really good offseason with Sudarshan, the main trainer. He comes to the National Cricket Academy. They’ve been incredible. I feel he is one of those trainers, in the Indian setup, who hasn’t got his due. Like, we've not spoken much about him.
“The amount of contributions he has made to Indian cricket is immense. So I had a really good two-month work with them. I’m working with a mobility coach in Bangalore, which has done wonders in mobility, working on the smaller muscles and stuff like that. So yeah, it's been a great offseason. I’m waiting for the season,” the pacer elaborated.
It’s this innate confidence that Varun Aaron has carried with him made him such a character around every dressing room he has been part of in the last one and half decade. If the tributes from his Jharkhand teammates don’t tell you enough about him, then we surely are in for a fulfilling trip to witness his carnage in Baroda.
It is only a matter of time.