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  5. Nitish Kumar Reddy: Andhra's Prodigious Talent that Promises to Deliver

Nitish Kumar Reddy: Andhra's Prodigious Talent that Promises to Deliver

Nitish made his debut in the Indian Premier League (IPL) against Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 18 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad.

Written By: Kumar Rupesh @afiestysoul New Delhi Updated on: April 11, 2024 11:59 IST
Nitish Kumar Reddy.
Image Source : NITISH KUMAR REDDY/INSTAGRAM Nitish Kumar Reddy.

Cricket prodigy is a jargon that gets thrown around rather too often these days. But despite its ever-growing usage, not every name obsessed with the sport carries the tag.

The tag is only bestowed upon a chosen few who are born with innate aptitude. Unsolicited in nature, it brings uncalled pressure of its kind and often preys upon the ones who shine in a different light than the rest in their age group.

It can be argued that the tag acts as a separating funnel and brings a distinguished identity with itself but not without a hefty price.

At an age when the weight of a kit bag is enough to wear the tender little shoulders down, the unascertained burden of the tag threatens to crack them open.

Expected to reign supreme in their age group in every outing, cricket prodigies aren't always lauded in the same vein as some of their lesser-gifted contemporaries despite reducing even the seemingly unattainable records to dust, they unsparingly get a rap on the knuckles on those rare occasions when they fail to dominate their peers, the way they usually do.

The tag takes their vision beyond the net sessions of their compeers and urges them to find a footing in another practice session running in tandem, a few yards away from theirs, fuelled by burning kinetic energy, where the game frequently loses its cocoon of enjoyment and finds itself covered with a peel of unrelenting race to the zenith.

Unlike their companions who require a push, no one needs to fast-track prodigies. They take to the big boys' circuit like fish to water and make a splash arresting enough to bewitch even the most uninvolved onlookers.

However, away from the comfort of their little amphitheatres, life in the demanding fast lane takes some of these prodigies to coliseums where the irresolute ones stumble and only a handful of those with resilient temperaments are left standing with a promise to translate their talent into world-beating performances and Andhra’s Nitish Reddy belongs to the latter category.

The world saw the first glimpse of Nitish when he turned up at the BCCI annual awards 2017/18 ceremony to receive the Jagmohan Dalmiya Trophy, conferred upon him for being the star of the U16 circuit.

Nitish was elated at his achievement and his elation went through the roof when he realised that his feat had put him on the same stage as the then India captain and arguably the best batter of the time, Virat Kohli.

A keen admirer of Virat, Nitish wanted to have an interaction with him but just like how life makes us work for everything, the Andhra-born's wishful interaction was put on hold.

Six years fast forward, the boy from Vizag crossed paths with his cricketing idol again and while this meeting bore similarities to the previous one, it was also different in so many ways at the same time.

By having leapfrogged innumerable talents on the way, Nitish was not only sharing the same stage as Virat, he was competing at the same level too.

While the teenager Nitish stood in awe of his idol at Naman (BCCI’s annual award ceremony) six years ago, his 19-year-old version was tasked to dismiss the same idol as Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) hosted Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad on May 18.

"I could feel the nerves but after bowling a couple of deliveries I became poised and motivated myself to pull it off," Nitish fondly recollects.

Though he ran in every ball to get the prized scalp of Virat, the latter was too good on the day as he smashed a match-winning century to take RCB home.

The evening ended on a sad note for Sunrisers and their fans but not for Nitish as he managed to get a few minutes with his idol - an opportunity that eluded him all these years.

"I couldn't talk too much because he had scored a hundred and the broadcasters were waiting for him. So, I just went to him and told him that I admired his attitude and had been a big RCB fan for the last eight years. He wished me luck for the rest of the games and I took his autograph before he went away."

Unflinchingly pertinacious

Athletes are known for their characteristic mindset to push boundaries in search of their better selves. While this perpetual want helps in the evolution of their game, it sometimes leads to fatal occurrences on the field that end up jeopardizing careers and a goal-oriented Nitish has also had his share of tribulation.

He suffered an anterior talofibular ligament tear in 2023 while fielding in a domestic game - an injury that saw him shriek in agony and put him on the sidelines for weeks.

"It was a very severe injury and tested my character to the core.

"Maintaining the fitness and the strength level and having the belief that a comeback was possible, was very tough," Nitish recounts.

"My gym trainer and my physio (Sreenivas) stood by me and worked tirelessly to help me achieve the fitness level I had.

"I indulged in weight and endurance training and also sought regular physiotherapy to stage a comeback.

"The nature of the injury was such that I couldn't run during my rehab and therefore after I took the field following my rehab I felt diffident.

"I couldn't bowl with 100% intensity and that often wore me down. But I was determined to turn it around and it was my determination that helped me regain the fitness I had earlier".

Battling a mistaken identity

An IPL contract with SRH, opportunities at the India U19 and 'A' levels and the chance to pick the brains of greats like Brian Lara and Dale Steyn, Nitish, 20, is galloping like a horse in a derby.

For someone aloof to the demanding nature of the sport, Nitish's success can come across as "too much too soon" but that's far from the case.

Once felicitated by the BCCI for his batting prowess at the U16 level, Nitish didn't keep his identity limited to a batter rather he expanded his prowess and found a new dimension to his potential.

Having jumped through hoops, Nitish developed the ability to swing the ball both ways - a weapon that has brought him the majority of the success he has had lately. While the growth in stature as a bowler has led to a rise in his stocks, it has pushed him into an intriguing battle - one that he never saw coming.

"I must say, I'm a batting all-rounder," Nitish told India TV.

"Most probably, people don't know about my batting prowess. My team members at Andhra know how I bat, but the others, only know me as a bowler. I'm actually a perfect batting all-rounder, and I am willing to prove it. It was probably the reason why I didn't get a chance to bat in the Emerging Asia Cup."

Though battling a mistaken identity, Nitish has not lost sight of his ultimate dream - one that every cricketer in India takes to his bed and wishes to wake up to.

"Representing the country in all three formats is my ultimate dream and I aspire to be the best allrounder in the world like Ben Stokes and Hardik Pandya."

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