NEW DELHI: It was the last Friday of Ramadan and Avesh Khan was just finishing his evening prayer when he was told that he would be travelling as a standby with the Indian Test team to England next month.
Avesh is 24 now. But he has been travelling with the Indian team as a net bowler since January 2018. This time, though, he is aware he will have to be in the best shape over the next three and a half months to fit in if an opportunity arises. He has seen how unheralded players had to come in and perform in Australia.
However, the last year has put things in perspective for Avesh. That he turned up as a much-improved fast bowler in this year’s IPL has a lot to do with how he saw life during the pandemic.
“I feel for the domestic players who didn’t have Ranji Trophy to play. I had an IPL contract but there are a lot of players who don’t have a job and are dependent on the bulk money that comes from Ranji Trophy. I realized that I am blessed and I had to make the most of the opportunities I am getting,” Avesh told TOI on Saturday.
Avesh and his family took an initiative to feed hoards of migrant labourers who were crossing his home town Indore when the lockdown was announced last year. “We were watching the scenes on TV and were deeply pained. My father had said that the almighty has given us enough to help these helpless people. We decided to go to the highway and give them dry snacks and bottles of water which could hold them for at least a day,” he said.
“The pandemic has made life so uncertain. It has taught us the value of our families and being happy in the moments we get with them,” Avesh said while adding that his childhood coach and former India opener Amay Khurasia called up and spoke a little about the tour. “Amay sir was only talking about staying safe and asked me to ensure that my family members are well taken care of when I will be gone.”
The pandemic also became a huge hurdle in his training. He had two prolific Ranji seasons prior to the pandemic and has been a regular in India ‘A’ sides for three years. With no Ranji Trophy and ‘A’ tours last season, it was getting difficult to maintain his fitness.
“Playing first-class matches helps you getting into a rhythm. I realized I had to shed weight after the last IPL. I needed to work really hard on my fitness to bowl well consistently in this year’s IPL.”
Giving up biryani was the toughest part for him. “I hired a personal dietician. He has put me on a routine diet now. I plan everything now. I have shed 6kg in the past three months and that has helped me in my endurance. My dietician does allow me to cheat and eat biryani and the delicacies at home once in a while. He has given me a bit of liberty during Ramadan as I have been fasting for a month,” he said.
As he gets ready to embark on a long tour, Avesh sees it as an opportunity to be in touch with the game. “The experience I had being a net bowler with the Indian team over the last three years has really helped in my growth. I know there is a very slim chance of me playing but I know I have to be ready if someone gets injured. Can’t stop learning,” he reckoned.