I think it will take a couple of days to set in: While interviewing, exactly 12 months ago, the 25-year old Karun Kaladharan Nair, said that he was training, working hard and doing his best in every available opportunity.
He made headlines by scoring 328 runs off 560 deliveries in the Final of the Ranji Trophy 2014-15, against Tamil Nadu, and bettered the individual best score of 319 runs scored by Baroda’s Gul Mohammad playing against Holkar in the Ranji Trophy Final 1946-47.
Like any other kid with twinkle in his eyes and with the aspiration of making it big, Karun started playing ‘street cricket’ at a very young age.
At the age of 10, he was enrolled in the cricket academy at Kormangala so that he could be put through the proper process of training. Nair made his First Class debut for Karnataka in December 2013 in the game against Punjab in which he scored 21 runs in the first innings but never got to bat in the second.
Since then Karun has featured in 40 matches (63 innings – unbeaten on 7 occasions) and has accumulated 3,165 runs at an average of 56.51 with 328 being his highest individual score. He also has 9 centuries and 13 half-centuries to his credit.
Talking about his average in FC, he said, “I think I can do better. I am really training and hope to do well in the coming season and try to win games for my team.”
In 2014-15 season, Nair had scores of 9, 35, 2, 14, 63, 2, 36, 38, 6, 0, 31, 20, 48, 49*, 28 adding upto 381 runs at an average of 27.21 but in the game against Tamil Nadu he notched up a mammoth 328 runs facing 560 deliveries.
Reliving that performance, he said, “I was not even aware of the record. It’s only after I scored 270, during drinks break, I was told about me surpassing Vishwanath’s (Gundappa) record. Later on I came to know about the record of Gul Mohammad (319 runs).”
“Well end of Day 1, I had just gone in to bat, but end of Day 2, me and Rahul (KL) played almost the entire day and by end Day 3, we had almost wrapped the match in our favour.”
Nair has had a good outing in BCCI’s premier tournament, Indian Premier League also.
“IPL has been a very good experience. We get to interact with our own senior players and other international players and share their experience. We get a lot of advice and guidance from them. The match that I enjoyed playing most was in 2014 when we (Rajasthan Royals) beat RCB in Bengaluru. I had scored 56 runs in that match”, he said about his IPL experience.
Having faith in his training and hard work to make it big, Karun said, “Yes I am, as I said, training and working hard and doing my best in every available opportunity. Rest of it, I will take as it comes.”
The third Test in the just concluded home series against England that was played at Mohali, saw the youngster being handed over his Test cap by none other the iconic former Indian skipper, Sunil Gavaskar.
In the only innings that he got to bat, Nair managed to score only 4 runs (one boundary) off four balls before he was ‘run out’ by a clean throw from Butler at the non-striker’s end, beat Nair, who was trying to retract his steps after responding to Kohli’s call for a single.
India eventually went on to win the match by 8 wickets. In the fourth and pen-ultimate Test of the series that was played at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, saw India win the match by an innings and 36 runs.
Batting in the only innings that India played, Karun could score only 13 runs off 17 balls with 2 fours before he was ‘done in’ by Moen Ali with a ball that straightened from round the wicket and hit the pad. On being referred, the Third Umpire ruled Nair out.
Having not being able to do anything significant, Karun got another opportunity to establish his credentials in the Fifth and Final Test played at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai.
The initial fear of whether the Test match could be conducted in Chennai, thanks to the devastation that the gayle storm Vardha had caused to the city, four days prior, was dispelled by TNCA, who had made remarkable arrangements for holding the game.
Winning the toss and opting to bat, the visitors went on a ‘run-scoring’ spree and had notched up 477 runs in their first innings, backed by excellent batting display by Joe Root (88), Moeen Ali (146), Law Dawson (66*) and Adil Rashid (60).
Fielding and catching woes, that started with the First Test continued to haunt them throughout the series. Moeen Ali, who was dropped by KL Rahul, even before he opened his account, went on to notch up his fifth Test century.
However, for India, the left-arm spinner, Ravindra Jadeja, spun his way through the English batsmen and picked up the wickets of Alistair Cook (10), Joe Root (88) and Jonny Bairstow (49).
Commencing their first innings, India opened with a new pair. Wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel accompanied KL Rahul. The pair put on 152 runs for the first wicket, before Patel got out, scoring 71 runs.
Cheteshwar Pujara (16) and Virat Kohli (15) failing to do much, the young Karun Nair had a huge responsibility on his shoulders.
Giving company to his Karnataka team mate, Lokesh Rahul, who was middling the ball excellently, Nair added 161 runs for the fourth wicket, when Rahul was dismissed for 199 runs, just 1 run short of his maiden Test double ton.
Rahul’s fourth Test century came in 171 balls with 8 fours and a couple of sixes. Nair then put on another couple of century partnerships. With Ravichandran Ashwin (67) he added 181 runs for the 6th wicket and another 138 runs for the 7th wicket along with Ravindra Jadeja (51).
At close of play on Day 3, India had scored 391 runs for the loss of 4 wickets, with Nair unbeaten on 71*runs and Murali Vijay unbeaten on 17* runs.The fourth day’s play saw Nair notch up his maiden Test century in 185 balls with 8 fours and a six.
The Karnataka youngster was successful in converting his maiden century into a maiden Test double-century facing 306 balls with 23 fours and a six.
Karun Nair became the third batsman in the world and the first Indian to convert the maiden Test century into a maiden triple ton, when he cut a wide delivery from Adil Rashid, beating Cook’s extended hands and touched the ropes.
India declared at 759 runs for the loss of 7 wickets. This was their highest score against England.
Staying put at the crease for 560 minutes, facing 381 deliveries and aided by 32 fours and 4 sixes and having stitched three century partnerships, Nair put up his highest Test score, thus far, of an unbeaten 303* runs. He joins the likes of Virendra Sehwag in the 300+ club.
He averages 160 runs from 3 Test matches (3 innings – once unbeaten) and accumulated 320 runs with a century.
A batting star is born for India. With players like KL Rahul, Karun Nair and Jayant Yadav excelling with the bat, the selectors would have a pleasant problem of ‘too many’ when they would assemble to select the Indian squad for the series against Australia.
For his excellent efforts, Nair was awarded the Player of the Match.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, an ecstatic Nair said, “I think it will take a couple of days to set in. I was going through all the texts and wishes that I got [last night]. It”s an amazing feeling when you contribute to winning a match, so hats off the to team. Everyone congratulated me but we were more focused on winning the match. There”s a lot to learn, I”ve been learning each day, working hard on my game.”