Bhui charts his road ahead
India's Under-19 side had a forgettable World Cup earlier this year and they failed to defend their title. One player, however, went through a worse campaign. Ricky Bhui, one of India's in-form batsmen going into the tournament, managed only 15 runs in four matches and also lost his place in the side.
Bhui had spent the last two years preparing for the U-19 World Cup and after such a torrid run, one would have expected the batsman to get bogged down. The 17-year-old, however, struck form soon after his return to India. Instead of going home to Visakhapatnam, Bhui joined the Andhra senior side midway through the south zone one-day league and his three unbeaten knocks, including a century and a fifty, helped Andhra revive their campaign and end the league on a high.
Bhui's most remarkable innings came against Goa, where he made his List A debut. With Andhra chasing 269 and his side shaky at 109 for 3 in the 25th over, Bhui came into his own, making short work of experienced and in-form spinners Shadab Jakati and Amit Yadav to race to an unbeaten maiden century and help Andhra secure the win with eight balls to spare.
While many were surprised with Bhui's quick resurgence after the World Cup, the batsman himself was pleased with his smooth transition to the senior league.
"The best thing that happened to me was I didn't have time to go into a shell after the U-19 World Cup and had to enter the field straightaway," Bhui told ESPNcricinfo. "Moreover, I found it easy to make the transition of playing at the higher level. What I found was here bowlers are more consistent. Most of the times, they bowl according to their field, so you kind of know where the ball will be pitched and where to score. At the junior level, bowlers tend to spray the ball around."
Bhui's tally of 204 runs off 190 balls wasn't enough for Andhra to make the cut for the knockouts, but it did earn him a place in the South Zone squad for the Prof DB Deodhar Trophy. While he didn't play the side's semi-final game against North Zone, Bhui was excited to share the dressing room with the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa and R Vinay Kumar.
The South Zone experience was a sort of prelude to the Indian Premier League, where he will share the Sunrisers Hyderabad dressing room with some of his idols. Bhui was the youngest player at the IPL auction and was bought by his home franchise for the base price of Rs 10 lakhs (approx. $16,000).
"Money just doesn't matter," Bhui said. "I am looking forward to learning the tricks of the trade from some of the biggest names in the game. The thought of being around them in itself is exciting. If I can get an opportunity to make a mark for Sunrisers, it would be like icing on the cake."
And with the IPL's first leg scheduled to be played in the UAE, Bhui may get a chance to exorcise the ghosts of the U-19 World Cup. Over the last three weeks, Bhui has had plenty of time to analyse what went wrong for him in the event.
"I won't say I failed to cope with the pressure. In fact, it was the first time that I experienced loss of form," he said. "I had never been dismissed for single-digit scores for four successive innings in the past. I am pleased I managed to regain my touch as soon as the tournament ended."
Bhui has had a topsy-turvy time on the field recently but he would not have come thus far had his love for sweets overcome his passion for the game. In early 2013, when the probables for the India Under-19 World Cup squad were named, he was overweight and on the verge of being obese. His talent with the bat was never in doubt but a bulging waistline threatened to hinder his progress.
What followed was a strict diet and fitness regime, which resulted in Bhui, the son of a Bengali businessman, doing extra yards in practice and cutting down on sweets. in the last year, the batsman lost more than 12 kgs.
"Initially, my mom used to be so upset to see me eat salad instead of all sorts of Bengali mithai. But now she has realised this is the way forward. So have I."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo