Tendulkar helped me get my confidence back - Kulkarni
The last time Dhawal Kulkarni was a part of India's dressing room was during India's tour to New Zealand in 2008-09. However, the Mumbai seamer, who was picked on the back of a sensational debut season in first-class cricket, was dropped without being awarded an India cap.
More than four years later, a mature Kulkarni has been given a second chance, having been named in India's squad for the three-ODI series against West Indies, starting November 21, and said he was "excited" at the prospect of a maiden appearance in international cricket.
"It was difficult to deal with," said Kulkarni, when asked about how he digested his exclusion from the Test squad in New Zealand. "It was on my mind that I have to get back in the team. There was no option other than working hard. Being smart and hard work was the key."
The right-arm seamer has emerged as Mumbai's workhorse over the last five years. However, there were times when he couldn't help but think about what he was doing wrong. Especially, when he was picking up five-wicket hauls - that too in big matches - consistently, and still finding himself on the sidelines. In fact, some experts had started believing that Kulkarni could well be the next Pankaj Singh, the Rajasthan seamer, whose exploits on the domestic circuit had been consistently ignored by the national selectors.
"It was kind of frustrating in between when I was picking up five wickets," Kulkarni said. "I had five-fors in the Irani Cup and twice in the Duleep Trophy and after that not getting picked up was a little bit disappointing. But I took it as a challenge and kept performing."
He turned to his Mumbai seniors for advice, including his current captain Zaheer Khan, his predecessor Ajit Agarkar and, of course, Sachin Tendulkar. Kulkarni said it was Tendulkar who helped him correct minor mistakes in his technique and raised his confidence at the start of the Ranji season.
Despite having performed consistently for India A against the touring New Zealand A and West Indies A sides before the Ranji season, Kulkarni wasn't bowling at his best as Mumbai began preparations for their Ranji Trophy title defence. That was when Tendulkar stepped in. "He worked with me on my bowling when I was not able to swing the ball initially at the start of the season. He was analysing me while he was batting. That helped me quite a lot," Kulkarni said.
"The only thing was that I was not backing myself at the start of the season. He was building confidence in me. He helped me in working on my rhythm rather than just going through the motions. When he batted, he used to tell me where my hand was going, about my wrist position and the seam.
"When it was not coming right, he used to walk up to me and tell me. It helped a lot."
While Kulkarni was keen to revel in his maiden call-up to India's ODI side with a strong outing against a formidable Delhi batting unit in the Ranji Trophy over the next four days, he would be hoping that his second coming at the international level would turn out different from his first.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo