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Rejuvenated Aaron's India dream still burning bright

Varun Aaron exults after bowling Hashim Amla Associated Press

Seven stress fractures have slowed down Varun Aaron's career, but he still retains the "madness" to bowl fast and hopes to work his way back into national reckoning or at least the A team.

"The madness to bowl fast is still there even after seven stress fractures," Aaron told ESPNcricinfo. "If I wanted to cut down on pace or go by the safer route, I'd have done it by now. Fast bowling in India isn't easy because of the wickets and conditions too, but it's fun at the end of the day when you see the ball thudding into the keeper's gloves."

India's fast-bowling resources are well-stacked now, but the desire to get back to doing what he did in Bengaluru in 2015 still exists.

"Why would I want to bowl fast if I don't want to return to the Indian team? I haven't got many chances to prove myself at India A as well. So, the opportunity is Vijay Hazare and Ranji now, and I want to make the most of it. I'm sure I will play for the country again."

Aaron last played for India in the Bengaluru Test against South Africa in 2015, when he bowled an absolute beauty that straightened late and hit the top of Hashim Amla's off stump. He has now returned to Bengaluru as one of Jharkhand's senior players for the 2018-19 Vijay Hazare knockouts.

He had played a vital role in Jharkhand topping Group B with seven wins in nine games (the other two were washed out), taking at least three wickets in each of his last four matches in the enervating Chennai heat. Aaron attributed his improved fitness and rhythm to his county stint with Leicestershire, after "surprisingly" finding no takers at the 2018 IPL auction.

He played three first-class games, claiming nine wickets, including a match haul of six that fashioned Leicestershire's first win after 19 matches. He subsequently toiled away on flat pitches in the one-dayers, picking up seven wickets in six matches at an economy rate of 6.39. These are just bare numbers. The placid tracks there made him dig deep into his reserves and prepared him for the long domestic season back home.

"Earlier before the county stint, I used to move the ball away, but now the inswinger is coming along well and I also developed a few cutters and slower balls in England."

"The county stint was the best thing that happened to me," he said. "The win against Glamorgan was [special]; it was their first win in I think 21 [19] championship games. So, I was really happy to be a part of it and more than being part to be able to contribute to that win was a really good feeling. The number of matches we played in a really short span of time and different conditions we encountered in again short spans of time helped me improve my bowling and fitness.

"The wickets in the one-day games were pretty flat. See in the one-dayers there were a lot of 300-plus scores. It's about adaptability and being able to develop a vast skillset to make the most of different conditions."

Aaron added an inswinger and cutters to his repertoire, which is serving him well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. One such slower cutter tricked Tamil Nadu captain B Indrajith and tipped a thriller Jharkhand's way in the Chennai leg of the tournament. "Earlier before the county stint, I used to move the ball away, but now the inswinger is coming along well and I also developed a few cutters and slower balls in England."

Rapid pace: check. Variations: check. Accuracy? Work in progress. Even in his previous stint with India in 2015, when he bowled that ball to Amla, Aaron regularly strayed on the pads and was picked off rather easily. "Yes, there was a problem with my lines and lengths," he said. "Coming back from injury, coming into the team, and then another injury hampers your rhythm. I've had a longer run of being fit now and it has helped keep my rhythm going. I'm in brilliant rhythm now and consistency isn't an issue anymore."

Jharkhand had lost won the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2010-11, when Aaron cranked upto 153kph. Can they regain the title this season? Aaron, certainly, believes so.

"We have had a brilliant side for the last four years," Aaron said. I feel with the talent we have we can only do justice if we can win a couple of trophies this year. More than anything else, we're really looking to dominate the domestic scene this year.

"Because we've got fast bowlers - Rahul Shukla is back from injury and with what I could contribute too - and (Shahbaz) Nadeem is there in the spin attack. Virat (Singh), Ishan (Kishan) and Saurabh (Tiwary) in the batting line-up. We believe we can win Vijay Hazare and then the Ranji, which is the dream of every domestic player in India."