Dhawal Kulkarni set to break four-month jinx
December 10, 2014. When Dhawal Kulkarni last bowled in a competitive match, the day he turned 26. April 10, 2015. Kulkarni is all set to bowl in a competitive match again. Four months. 120 days. Dhawal Kulkarni wasn't injured. Dhawal Kulkarni wasn't unfit.
In case you have forgotten, Kulkarni was in Australia. He was in New Zealand too. Kulkarni was initially drafted in for the injured Bhuveshwar Kumar after the first Test in Australia. Bhuvneshwar recovered - not fully, but he played the final Test in Sydney. Kulkarni was still in the squad. As a replacement? As a back-up? We don't really know.
Then came the tri-series. Kulkarni was joined by Mohit Sharma and the pair was back-up for India's injury-prone pace attack. Ishant Sharma was ruled out of the World Cup. Mohit was included and finished the World Cup with 13 wickets in eight matches, while Kulkarni continued to be the back-up.
He was a part of the Indian touring party for three-and-a-half-months. Mumbai missed him during a topsy-turvy Ranji season when he was either carrying drinks or bowling to his India team-mates in the nets.
He couldn't bowl in a match in India's sky-blue jersey. Come Friday and the four-month jinx is set to be broken. He will switch to Rajasthan Royals' royal-blue jersey and is all set to take the new ball against Kings XI Punjab.
The only match he has played over the period was a practice game Royals played among themselves at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai last week. But that was more for the sake of match simulation and trying out different combinations. Kings XI Punjab will be the first real test of the season for Kulkarni.
An IPL stage could be the best opportunity for Kulkarni to get back into the groove. The high-intensity and high-pressure surroundings may help him be at the top of his game. Or it could work against him as well. Well short of match practice, Kulkarni may be rusty and leak runs. And in a T20 match, no team can really afford to have a specialist bowler, who has not played a competitive game for four months.
Given the situation, Kulkarni would want to be given a slightly longer rope, even if he doesn't look his best in the first couple of games. If Kulkarni keeps the robust Kings XI batting unit in check, he would earn the right to be in the Royals XI for the better part of the first half of the tournament. Otherwise, he might have to continue doing what he did for the last four months.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo