Eighteen months ago, Pawan Suyal was bowling his heart out in the interiors of Pauri, a town in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is not known for producing cricket players but one man, having taken a massive step toward achieving his goals, is determined to put it on the map.
A little more than a year after arriving in the national capital, Suyal has gone from aspiring left-arm fast bowler to keen corporate-club enthusiast to having his name suggested to an IPL team to being named in Delhi's squad for the first two matches of the Ranji Trophy.
"I landed in Delhi last June with no idea of how cricket is run here or how clubs function," Suyal, 20, told Cricinfo soon after he got the news of the Ranji selection. "I just wanted to play cricket. What a big city it is. I can see why many outsiders are intimidated by it. Imagine me, a simpleton from the hills, coming this far without a clue of how big corporate clubs work. Ever since I was a kid I've known just one thing and that is to play this game. I really don't know anything else. I've never even chased a stable job. I rushed through my studies and spent more time playing cricket."
Prior to coming to Delhi, Suyal's experience had been limited to playing in tournaments back in Pauri. "I have bowled a lot with a proper cricket ball but most of my cricket was played with tennis and rubber balls," he says. "There is no club set-up back home. We hardly have grounds large enough to play proper matches. It's a very basic set-up."
The son of a government employee in Pauri, Suyal was backed by his brother, who works in the army, and sister who lives in Delhi. "They told me that if cricket was what I really wanted to do, I should come to Delhi," he says. "None of us were sure of how things would turn out here but I was determined just to play cricket at a competitive level. Pauri is hardly on the map and there haven't been any players from there. Delhi is a cricket hub and a place of great opportunity. Things have happened very quickly since I landed here and I cannot say what my future will be. DDCA toh door ki baat hai, main toh Dilli mein bahut kam log ko jaanta hoon! (Forget the DDCA, I hardly know any people in Delhi!)."
Suyal came to Delhi last summer for the Delhi Police Constabulary recruitments - "a real eye opener for me" - and got involved in the local corporate-club scene. He thanks his coach, Madan Sharma, for pushing him to hone his attitude and work-out routine. "He stressed on discipline and the benefit of long hours of practice," Suyal says. "Back in Pauri I just bowled and bowled without thinking too much of the mechanics of bowling. I was always very fit, being from the hills, but here I learned about how the body works."
Suyal played 15 matches for Telefunken in the DDCA league and took 25 wickets, an achievement that got him noticed by the local selectors. "That was a good experience as I got to play on different types of pitches and against stronger batsmen than I had bowled to back home," he says. After playing for the Under-22 side he was added to the Ranji probables camp this year.
Shikhar Dhawan, the Delhi batsman who plays for the Mumbai Indians, recommended Suyal's name to the IPL team's management after being impressed in the nets. However, Delhi's coach Vijay Dahiya felt it was too big a step for the youngster and told him to gain more experience first. "He was right, I need to work on my abilities more right now," Suyal says.
Though a little amazed at how fast his life has changed, Suyal isn't taking anything for granted. "To be selected in the Delhi squad within a year and a half is massive for me, but I have to just work hard and hope I am persisted with. Whether I play a game or not, I will give my best in the nets. It is an honour to be included alongside very experienced and senior Delhi players."
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo