Karun Nair’s journey from a wunderkind to the history books

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© BCCI

Karun Nair’s journey from a wunderkind to the history books

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Bastab K Parida

12/20/2016

He has been able to live his own dream as much as his parents'. Yesterday, he crossed the barriers of the Cauvery to get applause from the people of Tamil Nadu. He will face ups and downs in his career, but the history of Chepauk will always have his name indelibly etched.

March 10, 2015- Karun Nair was shredding the Tamil Nadu bowlers at the Wankhede Stadium in the final of the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy. A majestic triple century against the zonal opponents helped Karnataka posted a colossal 762 runs in the first innings, which was sufficient to present them their eighth Ranji Trophy title, their second title in two years.

Barely one and half years later, Nair, 25 years old now, clobbered the bowlers from another continent at the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai to hit his first century of his international career, and then duly converted that to a triple-ton, in no-time.

That was a triple century and this was a triple century. But the first one was in front of a near-empty stadium in Mumbai in a Ranji Trophy match and this was in front of a packed house filled to the brim by an energetic Chennai crowd in an International.  

Born in Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Karun Nair was brought up in Bengaluru and showed the glimpse of his caliber from the very first season in the Ranji Trophy, in which he scored 586 runs from only five matches, including three centuries and one half-century. In the following season, he bettered that feat and scored 1,107 runs to help Karnataka win their second successive title. Under the able tutelage of Rahul Dravid, he went on to establish himself as an important cog in the Rajasthan Royals line-up and it was just a matter of time before he got a call from the national selectors. 

It came in the 2015 India’s tour to the Emerald Isle, where Nair got his first break. But he couldn’t make his debut there, due to captain Kohli’s five-bowler policy. Almost after a year, an injury to his Karnataka statemate KL Rahul meant he was handed the debut cap in the third Test in Mohali against England. But it seemed the luck lady was not with him as a stunning piece of fielding from Jos Buttler ran him out at the non-striker’s end, when he was batting at four.

With KL Rahul fit again to play in the fourth Test, Ajinkya Rahane sustained an injury and was left out of the final eleven. Nair again got a chance to prove his credentials but failed again. He could manage to garner a minuscule 13 runs before England opted to review a leg-before decision that had been turned down by the umpire.

Rohit Sharma was still suffering from a quadriceps injury and Ajinkya Rahane was yet to gain full fitness before the fifth Test in Chennai. So, Nair got a reluctant go, but hardly anyone would have imagined, he will achieve something done so far by only a single Indian - swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag. A triple-century in only the third innings of his career was simply unbelievable. 

“There is always pressure in every game,” Karun said after the day’s play in the post-match press conference. “I got run out in the first game and didn’t get many runs in the second, but there was no extra pressure that I put on myself.

"I think after reaching hundred the pressure is off. You just go out there and play the shots that you can and you just look to hit the gaps. Once you cross 150, it is just playing freely like how you always do and just expressing yourself.”

The striking aspect in Karun’s innings was seen in the way he accelerated his innings. After taking 185 balls to score the first century of his career, he took only 121 balls to reach 200 and only 75 balls to reach the ultimate score from there. 

Karun said, "My game doesn't change much. It's just the mental approach that changes. In Test matches, obviously, you have a lot more time to get settled and play big. I think the approach doesn't change at all. I don't play any different shots in any other format. I just play the same way."

Nair made it even more special given he had his parents watch his feat from the arena. A school teacher by profession, his mother Prema K Nair hadn’t ever seen a match of her son, while Karun’s father Kaladharan Nair hasn’t missed a single match in Bangalore that Karun has played in since he was a kid.

Karun was born as a premature child with weak lungs and doctors advised his parents to involve him in sports and physical exercises for his betterment. Like every Indian mother, Prema wanted his son to pursue a career in education, but it was his father who encouraged him to take up cricket. He didn’t have a big dream, he just wanted to see his son play for Karnataka. Karun repaid that faith, but in a much bigger and grander way indeed. 

He has been able to live his own dream as much as his parents'. Yesterday, he crossed the barriers of the Cauvery to get applause from the people of Tamil Nadu. He will face ups and downs in his career, but the history of Chepauk will always have his name indelibly etched.

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