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Three tons in five games? Nah, Ricky Bhui wants more, a lot more

Last updated on 07 Feb 2024 | 01:09 PM
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Three tons in five games? Nah, Ricky Bhui wants more, a lot more

The Andhra captain speaks about his superb batting form in the ongoing Ranji Trophy and the possibility of keeping wickets and finishing games for Delhi Capitals in the upcoming IPL

“Jitne runs maaro, utna kam hota hai!”

Ricky Bhui knows you can never be satisfied with the amount of runs you score if you are an Indian domestic batter trying to graduate to the next level, considering there are thousands out there trying to do the same. 

The 27-year-old, who played two Under-19 World Cups in 2014 and 2016, is no spring chicken. An average of 45.48 after 68 first-class games should at least be enough to get you to the doorstep of the Test set-up, but that’s not the case in India, and Bhui understands that.

The right-handed batter from Andhra, who made his first-class debut in 2013, has been around for more than 10 years and has 4458 runs to his name. Just like all other batters, Bhui wants to be as consistent as possible and he has done that in the last three editions of the Ranji Trophy.

In the last three seasons, Bhui has amassed 1416 runs in 27 innings at an average of 56.64. He has been even more impressive in the ongoing 2023-24 Ranji Trophy, having slammed 550 runs in seven innings at an average of 78.57. He is currently the third-highest run-getter in the Elite group. However, he is still not satisfied and has a valid reason for that.

Bhui has 17 first-class centuries and 15 fifties but is yet to get a double ton. In a country like India, you must pile up double and triple hundreds to grab selectors’ attention. Even in the ongoing edition, Bhui has three tons and a fifty and he knows that’s not enough, especially if there are batters like Narayan Jagadeesan scoring 245* and 321 in successive games.

“I know I have been amongst runs but I am not really fully satisfied with my performance. I still don’t have a double century to my name. I am getting centuries but I need to get big hundreds. I scored that 175 in the first encounter against Bengal… But again, if you are talking about Indian cricket, there are many centuries being scored every day,” Bhui told 

“There’s a lot of competition in India, so you need to keep scoring in every match. Jitne runs maaro, utna kam hota hai (doesn’t matter how many runs you score, it’s never going to be enough). You look at Narayan Jagadeesan who scored 245 against Railways and followed it up with a knock of 321 against Chandigarh. It gets highlighted for all the right reasons

“But at the same time, if you are playing match-saving knocks against big teams like Bengal, Saurashtra or Mumbai, even that gets noticed. I have 17 first-class centuries, so I would want to score a double or triple this season. I need that big knock.”

Bhui started this season with a bang, scoring 175 against Bengal in Visakhapatnam, against the likes of Akash Deep, Ishan Porel, and Mohammed Kaif after Bengal had posted 409 in the first innings. Thanks to Bhui, Andhra took a first-innings lead and walked away with three points. He survived 347 deliveries, while no other Andhra batter went past 56.

In his next three innings (two vs Mumbai and one vs Assam), Bhui got out in the 20s. Howbeit, he responded with a knock of 125 against Assam in the second innings and followed it up with a 120 against Chhattisgarh in Raipur. In the round-five match against Bihar, Bhui scored 58. 

“I like the knock I played against Bengal in our first game. They posted 409 in the first innings and they had a quality bowling attack. They were the runners-up last year, so that knock gave me a lot of confidence. I had to grind, that innings involved a lot of hard work. I faced around 350 deliveries and we were chasing a 400-plus score to get a lead. That has been the most satisfying knock so far this season,” said Bhui.

Bhui might have some personal goals but isn’t too worried about that. The middle-order batter has a chance to get close to that 1000-run mark, however, his biggest goal right now is to win the Ranji Trophy for Andhra. To be honest, they have been pretty good so far. After losing to Mumbai, Andhra have won their last three games and are currently at No. 2 on the Elite Group B points table.

“Before the season started, I was thinking of how I can score 1000 runs. But more than that, my biggest goal right now is to win the Ranji Trophy. Andhra have never won a major trophy, so that’s something I would want to achieve. The goal is to win the trophy and then see how many runs I end up with. We are trying not to think about personal milestones. 

“In fact, before the season started, we devised a rule of not celebrating personal milestones. We don't celebrate if someone scores a fifty or a hundred or takes five wickets. Everyone wants to make sure that the team wins. The batters don’t even know they are batting on 90 or 99. All everyone wants is for the team to win.”

Andhra started this season with Hanuma Vihari at the helm but the captaincy was passed to Bhui just after the first game. Under Bhui’s leadership, Andhra have won three games in a row after losing to Mumbai. Bhui said Vihari, who hasn’t played for India since August 2022, wanted to focus on his batting and the team had no trouble accepting him as their new captain.

“I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t expecting the captaincy switch just after one game, but it’s good for Vihari as he is looking to make a comeback. This way he can focus on his batting. In the match against Chhattisgarh, he got that big hundred. Before that, he got a couple of fifties as well. It was his personal choice.

“There wasn’t much disturbance in the team either considering the same set of players have been playing together for almost five years now. There was no panic in the team, everyone accepted the fact that I was going to lead the side now and we moved on. And he is still involved in all the important discussions. We are best friends. The transition was very smooth,” said Bhui, who is averaging 55.27 as captain in first-class cricket.

“For me, captaincy and batting are two different entities. When we are fielding, that’s what I have to ‘captain’. While batting, I think about what the team needs and bat accordingly. Most of these players are quite experienced, so they know their roles and that makes my life easier. It’s quite simple for me, so I don’t take a lot of stress.”

Bhui and Vihari are close friends off the field and also enjoy batting together. If we look at this season, they have already had partnerships of 87 vs Bengal, 121 vs Assam, and 231 vs Chhattisgarh. Unsurprisingly, they are also Andhra’s leading run-getters this season. 

“We have played a lot of cricket together. We know each other’s batting style. We have had many partnerships across formats in the past few years. I know what phase he is going through and he knows the same. We don’t really speak a lot while batting because the coordination has been there for years. But still, if one of us feels that the other is going off the track, we start pushing each other.”

Bhui has always been a team man, willing to do anything to help his team. Besides scoring tons of runs for Andhra, he also keeps wickets whenever his side needs him to. With KS Bharat travelling with the Indian Test squad, Bhui kept wickets in the first match against Bengal but gave the gloves to Uppara Girinath once he was given the captaincy.

With Rishabh Pant injured, India have struggled to find a permanent wicketkeeper who is not only good behind the stumps but can also show some consistency with the bat. Bharat hasn’t done much with the bat, while KL Rahul hasn’t been able to keep up with the workload. Meanwhile, Ishan Kishan is on a break.

Bhui knows the importance of having a secondary skill and how it can help a player get an Indian Premier League contract or break into the national set-up. “Whenever KS Bharat wasn’t available, I used to keep wickets. You always need a wicketkeeper who can bat well and I have played that role for Andhra in the past. And I have done well,” said Bhui, who is averaging 55.17 in eight first-class games as a wicketkeeper. 

“You need to have a secondary skill to survive at this level. You can look at KL Rahul. Even in the IPL, it gets you more opportunities. If I wasn’t given the captaincy, I would kept the whole season. Wicketkeeping isn’t an easy job in red-ball cricket. I will try to keep wickets at least in a couple more games this season. Doing Batting, captaincy, and wicketkeeping is very hectic.

“I kept in the first game but then got the captaincy and decided to give the gloves to somebody else (Girinath). Took the call because I wanted to keep myself fresh and focus on the batting. If you are the main batsman of your team, your batting is very important. It’s not easy to focus on your batting after keeping for 110-120 overs. But I am always open for wicketkeeping.

“I have been working on my wicketkeeping because you never know I might get a chance to keep wickets in the IPL. I am not a part-time wicketkeeper but of course I would like to keep improving.”

Considering he is more than a handy wicketkeeper and can bat lower down the order, Delhi Capitals (DC) got him for INR 20 lakh in the IPL 2024 Auction. In the last edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the right-hander didn’t bat in the top-three and still ended up smashing 234 runs in seven innings at an average of 58.5 and an impressive strike rate of 184.3.

Bhui has been waiting to have a breakthrough year and he believes his time has finally come. He worked a lot on his white-ball game prior to the season and it paid rich dividends. He even went on to slam a 52-ball 104* against Punjab, who eventually won the title. Having added a few more shots to his arsenal, Bhui got the better of Arshdeep Singh, Siddarth Kaul, Harpreet Brar, and Mayank Markande who have all featured in the IPL.

“This time I wanted to focus more on white-ball cricket, especially in the 20-over format. I added a couple of new shots to my arsenal. I worked on my power-hitting game, considering I batted in the lower order this season. You bat in the slog overs, you will have to hit yorkers, wide yorkers. There are going to be good bowlers bowling at you. 

“If you look at my innings against Punjab, I hit Arshdeep Singh for two sixes behind the stumps. I hit bowlers like Siddarth Kaul and Harpreet Brar who have played IPL. You need a different set of skills for that. I have been practicing for hitting 140-plus deliveries, also trying to play scoop shots. I have been waiting for a breakthrough year and this could be that year, especially with me also getting an IPL contract.”

Bhui, who has played two IPL games for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the past, has a serious chance of featuring in the DC XI at some stage of the competition. Pant is going to play but it’s highly doubtful he will keep wickets. The franchise paid INR 7.2 crore to acquire Kumar Kushagra, so he might start, but the 19-year-old hasn’t done much in his short T20 career. 

Delhi also have Abishek Porel, Shai Hope, and Tristan Stubbs in their squad but there’s a problem attached to every single one of them. While Porel is inexperienced, Hope generally bats in the top-order and is an overseas player, which is the same case with Stubbs. DC already have certain starters in David Warner, Harry Brook, Mitchell Marsh and Anrich Nortje. Hence, Bhui could fit perfectly in the lower middle-order.

“I have been in touch with the DC management on a regular basis. I have also spoken to Sourav Ganguly sir (director of cricket) and Pravin Amre sir (assistant coach). They keep asking me where I would like to bat and how I have been preparing for that role. I am very excited because IPL is going to be very important for me,” says Bhui, who last played an IPL game in 2019.

“If you look at international players in the IPL, most of them play in the top-order. There will always be spots available in the middle and lower order and you don’t have too many domestic batters who can finish games, and play the role of the finisher. There’s not much competition there. I have picked that role and there is a demand for such players. I have constantly been working on finishing games.”

As a sportsperson, you are always looking for a chance to prove yourself, and Bhui has got himself into a position from where he can climb to the next level. From having an opportunity to lead Andhra to their maiden Ranji Trophy title to possibly keeping wickets for Delhi in the upcoming IPL, Bhui has the stage and the audience and it’s now up to him to make the most of it.

(Images credit - Ricky Bhui's Instagram)

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