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Rahul Tripathi. Photo: AFP
Rahul Tripathi. Photo: AFP

Rahul Tripathi’s rise from Ranchi to a Supergiant

Among the top-10 scorers in the just concluded Indian Premier League (IPL), Pune Supergiant's Rahul Tripathi was the only one who had not played an international game

Among the top-10 scorers in the just concluded Indian Premier League (IPL), Pune Supergiant’s Rahul Tripathi was the only one who had not played an international game. Yet Tripathi was the second most influential batsman from his team (after captain Steven Smith) and instrumental in Pune finishing runners-up in IPL 2017.

Not bad for a team which was among the bottom two in its debut season last year.

If Sachin Tendulkar finds shades of Virender Sehwag in Tripathi’s off-side strokes, Mohammad Kaif considers him the find of the season, ahead of Nitish Rana and Rashid Khan. Tripathi doesn’t need any introduction today but he wasn’t an automatic choice for Pune to start with—he didn’t play in the first two matches of the season.

His debut game (batting at No.4) wasn’t a memorable one either (10 runs off five balls). However, it was good enough to leave an impact on his skipper, who asked him to be ready to open in the next game.

“I am pleased Supergiant gave me a platform to express myself. I was trying to give my best during net sessions and maybe that caught his (Smith’s) attention," says the Ranchi-born 26-year-old.

In his first game as opener (against Gujarat Lions in Rajkot), Tripathi scored a 17-ball 33. His utter disdain for Praveen Kumar’s bowling (he scored 24 runs off nine balls) was breathtaking. His strike rate (146.5) throughout the tournament was distinctive.

Only Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders) had a better strike rate (among players who played at least 10 matches) than Tripathi in this season. Among openers, Tripathi scored more runs, at a better strike rate, than Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan. He now seems like a bargain at the base price of Rs10 lakh during the auction.

“Opportunity matters a lot since the IPL is a great platform," says Tripathi, who finished ninth overall, with 391 runs at an average of under 28.

The six-week tournament has transformed this soft-spoken youngster. Even though he failed to live up to expectations in the last leg of the IPL (with 39 runs in five matches), he had done enough to be spoken of highly. His whirlwind 93 against Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens was one of the best innings of the season.

At that point, he had scored seven 30-plus scores in eight innings. Someone who wasn’t good enough to be part of his inter-state and inter-zonal Twenty20s (for West Zone) this season, is now being seen as a promising talent for India. Tripathi had a forgettable Ranji season (185 runs in 11 innings) and wasn’t initially picked for the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy.

“Life has changed and you do feel nice when people appreciate and recognize you. I won’t get carried away because I have seen ups and downs in life," says Tripathi.

He has a BSc in mathematics (though he says the reported 98% in math was exaggerated) and his family wanted him to be an engineer. But cricket was his passion. Today he’s feeling a sense of accomplishment.

“I didn’t have a great Ranji season and my back injury was one of the main reasons for that. In the IPL, I relied on the first-watch-and-then-hit-the-ball theory," says Tripathi.

He was obviously in awe of city-mate and IPL teammate M.S. Dhoni before he joined the team.

“(Dhoni) himself asked me jokingly, ‘Tu Ranchi main paida hua hai (You were born in Ranchi)?’ I told him that my mother is from Ranchi and I used to stand and watch his house from outside. Mahi bhai smiled," recalls Tripathi.

For almost a decade now, Pune has been home. He speaks fluent Marathi and takes pride in being the only local boy for Supergiant—Ajinkya Rahane is from Mumbai.

Unsurprisingly, his next aim is to share a dressing room with Virat Kohli, something his mother is confident he will do.

“I think Anil Kumble’s mother’s name is Saroj and Virat’s mother’s name is also the same. My mother (Saroj) keeps telling me that I too will play with Virat! She has her own logic and her own dream but that also gives me confidence," says Tripathi.

One fine IPL doesn’t necessarily mean an India call-up—especially since his statistics in first-class cricket aren’t impressive. Yet Tripathi can take inspiration from the rise of Mumbai Indians’ Hardik Pandya, who graduated from the IPL to India A tours to India in a short span.

Vimal Kumar is the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide. He tweets at @Vimalwa

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