Fast bowler Varun Aaron is not worried about the cut-throat competition and is hopeful of his India comeback, saying he is competing with himself only and believes he can play for any team at his best.
The 32-year-old recently parted ways with his state side Jharkhand and will play for Baroda in the upcoming 2022-23 season of domestic cricket.
The Indian cricket team currently has a plethora of options in the fast bowling department and have serious competition. So, making a comeback for Aaron, who last played for India in 2015 and has suffered many injuries since then, won’t be easy. However, the Jharkhand-born cricketer is optimistic about his chances.
“At the end of the day, the only person who I am competing with is myself. When I broke into the Indian team, great bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, and Ashish Nehra were playing at that time. If I thought about the competition back then, I would have never made it into the team,” Varun told IANS in an exclusive interview.
“So similarly, my focus has always been myself, and I know that I, at my best, would make myself with the team,” he added.
There was a time when most budding cricketers wanted to become batters but things have changed drastically in the last few years. Nowadays, youngsters are keen to take up fast bowling.
Aaron, who himself was part of the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai at the age of 15, and has seen Indian cricket closely for a very long time now, feel better athleticism and improved infrastructure have led to the transformation.
“I feel it’s great. I feel India is evolving as a sporting country. People have started taking up a lot more sports than just cricket. So with that, you get better-trained athletes. And, fast bowling is all about being athletic, it’s all about having stamina, being strong, and having speed,” the pacer said.
“Before guys used to play like cricket all day, they just played a little football but now kids are being trained in school. There are programs in place and also in India at the moment, we’ve got a great setup and structure to spot talent at an early age and invest in them.
The MRF Foundation has been doing it for a very long time — since 1988 I think. But now even the BCCI has started doing that, investing a lot in fast bowlers. So, the Indian fast bowlers for the last seven to eight years have been really, really good, which obviously generates more interest in fast bowling,” he added.
The experienced fast bowler was bought by the champions Gujarat Titans at the IPL 2022 mega auction and he played two matches for them during the season. Ashish Nehra was the head coach of the victorious Titans team. Interestingly, Varun has had the opportunity to play with him and also under his coaching.
Asked about Nehra’s personality, Varun said that the cricketer-turned-coach is a chilled-out guy and he is always there when a player needs him.
“He (Nehra) is really really chilled out. He is a very good player’s coach and always there when you need him, want to have a chat late at night or want to have an extra session in the nets,” he said.
“He is very much invested in every single player and wants the team to do well from Day one. During the IPL 2022, he kept the atmosphere at Gujarat Titans relaxed. There wasn’t any sense of desperation or pressure to win the title in the first year. The message was very clear — just play good cricket and let’s execute our plans. That’s all we had to get. Once we started winning, it was just really easy for us throughout the tournament,” he added.
Talking about the learning for his former statemate and legendary MS Dhoni, Varun said that the charismatic cricketer is very cool under any circumstance.
“Obviously, I made my India debut under MS. Later, I played for the state with him for the first time, because when he had played for India, I was playing under-14, so I never met him until I represented India,” said Aaron.
“When I finally met him, I was pleasantly surprised to know how down to earth he was, how approachable he was. His cricketing brain, like some of the ideas he gets on the field, is brilliant and we all have seen that obviously. What I would love to take away from him is — how cool and collected he is in any situation. And if he does well, or he doesn’t have the greatest game, he is still the same. So that’s something which everybody can take away from him,” he added.