“It was a sense of relief, to be picked by Gujarat Titans and be in that Indian Premier League ecosystem.”
Those were the exact words of 27-year-old Abhinav Manohar Sadarangani, who went from playing corporate cricket to representing Karnataka to earning 13 times increase in his IPL base price, at INR 2.6 crore, all in the span of four months.
“It was a long-time in the making for me to reach here (IPL). And once that happens, you can only grow as a cricketer,” Abhinav told Cricket.com in an exclusive chat.
Hardik Pandya-led Gujarat Titans went toe-to-toe in battle with Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Capitals to secure the services of the Karnataka all-rounder for the upcoming seasons of the cash-rich league. With Abhinav himself being a finisher, he expressed his delight over the opportunity of working closely with Hardik, a proven finisher in world cricket.
“Excited, he (Hardik Pandya) is an exciting player at the other end, I would love to bat with him, I would want to learn more from him and his finishing abilities, and just experience all of that in the middle,” he expressed his delight.
Despite his consistent performances in Sir Mirza Ismail Shield as a youngster, the elusive breakthrough never came his way before a switch to one of Karnataka’s oldest cricketing clubs, Bangalore United Cricket Club.
“I shifted my club this year, I’m playing for BUCC (Bangalore United Cricket Club) this year. I got a hundred in the second game and that really kick-started my purple patch,” he spoke on his switch.
In 11 games this season, the right-hander piled 458 runs, with twin centuries, scoring 29 sixes, ten more than anyone in the league, showing both consistency and fireworks. “I knew that it was only a matter of time before I break into the Karnataka senior side,” he told Cricket.com with full confidence.
Following the footsteps of Rahul Dravid and KL Rahul, who all in the past have been part of BUCC, Manohar’s switch returned him with one of the biggest gifts of his life: a debut for Karnataka.
Having started playing around with the bat at the age of eight, it wasn’t until he turned 27, lost plenty of pounds, and trained several hours on his power-hitting that the senior team debut came his way.
“I wanted to play for Karnataka, I have played age-group cricket but to break into the senior setup, it was a great feeling. And to get the cap from Manish (Pandey), it was a big thing for me. Happy that everything went my way,” he states.
“I have always been able to hit powerful sixes, my training has really helped me, it is an all-round thing and I have worked on it as well.”
The first innings
On November 16, 2021, when he walked out to bat, Karnataka were reeling at 34/3, with them chasing 146 against a formidable Saurashtra side. It was almost a blur for the right-hander, who walked into bat in a state of rush, with Karnataka losing three wickets just in the powerplay.
Even though he was on debut, Abhinav reflects that the situation was “tailor-made” for him.
“I felt that the situation was tailor-made for me, we were chasing a big target (146). I didn’t have time to be nervous, I didn’t have time to think really. I went out there and reacted to the situation. I knew that the target was achievable and took calculated risks,” he reflects scoring an unbeaten 70 on his debut to take Karnataka home against Saurashtra.
But it was a situation that the 27-year-old was prepared for, having trained most of his previous three years perfecting the “art of finishing games”. Back in 2018, in the clash against Bengaluru Blasters, he walked out at 57/2 and auditioned for the bigger stages. His confidence against the spinners and the range against pacers was well noted.
“I think back then, that was my first real performance (61 off 28), I was just trying to get on the top of the bowlers, we fell short by a fine margin. Over the years, that is something that I have worked on, to finish games for my team,” he recalls on Bellary Tusker’s six-run loss against Bengaluru.
“Basically, the learning has always been how to read the situations. With experience, you tend to improve on that, playing a lot of matches elsewhere has helped me in playing the situation.”
Despite the immediate success (162 runs in four games at a SR of 150), he had to wait for his turn in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. While having only one opportunity to make his impact, a 34, in the quarter-final against Tamil Nadu, it was enough to convince the IPL scouts of his talent.
“This year, I went for six trials, it all went well, they give you a different scenario in each IPL trials. You learn to play bowlers, it is all very good bowlers, you tend to learn how they plan to bowl against me.”
Even though he wasn’t part of an IPL franchise thus far, he picked the brains of the other Karnataka players who played in the cash-rich league. While in his own words, he might not have watched a whole lot of IPL growing up, his journey will now allow other kids to dream, of not giving up on a sport that he could have very well given up when he was 12.
Abhinav’s father, Manohar Sadarangani had a role and half in shaping his career. Despite running a footwear shop in Bangalore’s commercial street, he left no stone unturned in shaping Abhinav’s cricketing career. For all those confused, that is also where his name in the IPL Auction - Abhinav Sadarangani came about.
“I would like to thank my parents; my dad has given me full freedom to pursue my passion. He has never pressurized me with the academic stuff and that has given me the confidence to focus on cricket. I feel I give all my credit to my dad.”
And the one piece of advice that he holds dear is, “My friend (who is part of an IPL franchise) told me that you won’t make it to the higher level if you are not consistent and finishing games.”
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