"I tried to get my daughter into cricket and she didn't. With Rachin, I didn't try, and he did." Ravi Krishnamurthy, the proud father of New Zealand Under-19's most-promising allrounder, tells ESPNcricinfo, even as his son prepares for a second crack at junior cricket's biggest prize.
Krishnamurthy couldn't help but notice the passion when little Rachin would keep tucking at his Slazenger bats and then spend hours together hitting plastic balls spread across their backyard as a five-year old. It was this initiation into cricket that eventually took proper shape in the form of schools cricket, inter-districts, where he earned the reputation of being an elegant strokemaker who was hard to dismiss.
At 16, Rachin Ravindra was the youngest New Zealander to feature in the 2016 World Cup in Bangladesh, where he impressed with his left-arm spin, but couldn't quite replicate his success with the bat. He has started the 2018 tournament well, picking up three wickets that set the base for New Zealand's eight-wicket win over West Indies. In home conditions, Krishnamurthy hopes the two years of hard work since will pay off.
A software system architect, Krishnamurthy played a decent level of cricket in his hometown Bengaluru, before he left India to settle down in New Zealand after stints in England, Singapore and Australia. He, however, continued to remain in touch with some of his club team-mates like Javagal Srinath and J Arunkumar.
Srinath, who Rachin fondly calls as "Sri uncle" turned out to become a close family friend, who they often visit in Bengaluru whenever Krishnamurthy is down meet his extended family during summer holidays. Srinath also often visits the Krishnamurthy household if in Wellington on match referee duty.
"He's my gym buddy, but I can't lift the kind of weights he does," Rachin laughs. "He is always happy to chat cricket with me whenever he's here. He's been very kind to spend time with me and talk about experiences that shaped him in his cricket career. How India's outlook is towards cricket, cricketers and stuff like that. I've been fortunate to have been able to spend time with some former cricketers."
Until 2010, a trip to India meant family holidays. Since 2011, the annual India holidays have been intercepted with plenty of day's cricket across Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Anantpur, courtesy the Hutt Hawks Cricket Club, which Krishnamurthy founded in 2011 to give "serious cricketers" an opportunity to play day's cricket and not just 30-overs cricket, as is the norm in New Zealand at the junior levels.
"The age-group limited-overs format wasn't going to teach resilience. It was more participation than anything," Krishnamurthy, a Level 3 certified coach by New Zealand Cricket, explains. "I kind of knew, unless Rachin went out and got good number of games as match practice, he won't progress. The number of dropouts in cricket is staggering in New Zealand. We started Hutt Hawks, named after our suburb in Wellington, with a few like-minded guys. The idea was also to get these boys to enjoy travel on the road, the journey, the team spirit and mateship. The fun you have with all the boys on and off the field is what defines Hutt Hawks."
The club's aim was to play teams from across New Zealand's districts and across different countries, largely India.
"Playing in different conditions in India has helped my overall game," Rachin says. "It's allowed me to work a lot more on my batting, especially on turning pitches which our climate and soil doesn't allow us to prepare. Also bowling on turners has been a tough experience, because as a spinner, you are in the game a lot more, and not just playing a holding role that you're invariably asked to do back home."
The exposure over the last two years for a lot of age-group cricketers has been particularly significant because New Zealand haven't played too much Under-19 cricket bilaterally. In fact, since the conclusion of the 2016 World Cup in Bangladesh, the team hadn't played a single international in the build-up to the edition they are now hosting.
Last year, Bruce Edgar, the former New Zealand opener, asked to be included in Hutt's touring party after a number of first-class cricketers from Wellington Firebirds were part of the India tour. Krishnamurthy, who also runs a cricket sports shop in Wellington outside of his day job, partially funds these trips, of which Rachin has been a part every year except the current one, since he's a part of the World Cup squad.
Krishnamurthy was incidentally in India until a couple of days ago, coaching a Hutt Hawks team and simultaneously working on his "billion-dollar proposals and corporate presentations" while his boys were on the field. The huge time difference between India and New Zealand didn't leave him too stressed about his son.
Krishnamurthy has a trusted ally in Ivan Tissera, who has been Rachin's childhood coach and now trains the Wellington Under-19s. Tissera, a Sri Lankan born New Zealander, played for the Bloomfield Cricket Club in Colombo and migrated to Wellington around the same time as Krishnamurthy. The two became close friends, a bond that has naturally extended to their families too, so much that Tissera took Ravindra under his wings immediately and would train him alongside another teenaged prodigy Amelia Kerr, who represented New Zealand at the Women's World Cup in June last year at the age of 16.
"He is such a humble boy. He never has any ego in terms of 'I'm doing well.' I keep telling him as long as you don't let that get to you, you're fine," Tissera says. "His priorities are clear. He has the support from his father in every way possible, without the pressure that he has to play cricket."
Rachin clearly knows what he wants, and is looking to play club cricket in England to further strengthen his game. But that would mean carrying his books along and study to cover up for his exams that he must appear for to pursue a law degree which he wants to after his Grade 12. "I have had no problems balancing cricket and studies," he says. "I want to either do law or computer engineering. My parents have always encouraged me to do what I want. It's just coincidence that my passion coincides with my dad's passion."
Krishnamurthy resonates that view. "His favourite pass-time is cricket. No cellphones, girlfriends just yet. He trains crazy. Honestly, I wouldn't do what he does to himself, but I won't tell him that. He's also very aware of nutrition, body anatomy and biomechanics. It's quite crazy.
"But my wife Deepa and I always said to him to do a lot of things in life, education is important for everyone. He's been a very good student. He doesn't necessarily put in the effort like my daughter does, 95%, but as long as he gets good marks, we're all good," he says. "We have all the comforts, more than we'd asked for, but we don't want him to be comfortable. He has to work for what he gets.
The crazy routines, Krishnamurthy believes, will go a long way towards Rachin becoming a better person, even if he doesn't become a great cricketer. The systems Rachin has meticulously followed, he hopes, would help him emerge a better cricketer. Along the way, he hopes Rachin can also pick Rahul Dravid's brains during the course of the tournament.
"I'm sure Rahul will have some plans for him, whenever India and New Zealand play," Krishnamurthy laughs. "After the tournament or our game, I'm sure he'll be kind enough to have a chat with Rachin. If he can learn from them and continue to get better, sky is the limit. If not a better cricket, he'll surely emerge a better person."