The queue for batting at the Shivaji Park Gymkhana Academy was too long. And he had travelled from too far. From Kalyan to Dadar, on a local train. So Tushar Deshpande joined the fast bowlers' queue instead. And how good it was for Mumbai cricket that he did.
Twenty-one wickets in eight previous first-class matches won't pop out of any screen. The statistic that pops out is his 67 no-balls in those eight matches. This is word that travels fast and can stick, but he has something that is usually natural. Pace. The no-ball problem can be sorted, but you can't coach pace if you don't have the basics for it. On a placid pitch at Karnail Singh Stadium, Deshpande had batsmen jumping around, hitting them on the body, getting catches off the glove. So accurate and quick was he that the batsmen didn't have time to get out of the way. And he had six wickets to show for his effort. All this despite struggling with the Delhi pollution. He fielded wearing a mask, and had headaches and a bout of vomiting before the start of the match.
When Deshpande bowled opener Nitin Bhille, the bail flew to the fine leg boundary. Two batsmen gloved him behind when he bounced them. Hooks off his bowling sailed well over the boundary. Deshpande is not too tall - 5'11" perhaps - but he is strong. He has a build similar to that of the man he replaced in the Mumbai side, Shardul Thakur. He has similar pace too. If Thakur had a problem with accuracy when he first broke through, Deshpande's problem is no-balls.
Some Mumbai observers have counted 12 wickets off no-balls before this match. He added Railways' best batsman Arindam Ghosh to that tally. It was one of his four no-balls in this match. Deshpande is a softly spoken young man, but he puts those no-balls down to aggression. And he is aggressive on the field.
"Over-aggression. Sometimes your stride becomes too long, sometimes you over-run, all for pace," Deshpande says.
The good thing, he says, is that now he understands what is happening and when he is going to bowl a no-ball. On day two of this match, he bowled four no-balls. On day three he bowled none. That's because he realised twice that he was going to over-step and pulled out of the delivery. "Now I have started realising," he says. "When you reach the umpire too soon, or just when you are about to enter the delivery stride, you realise. So that is a good thing."
Some coaches say that avoiding no-balls is not as easy as just starting six inches behind from where you usually do, but Deshpande says it is easy, just that he has not been able to do it yet.
The aggression shows in his wicket-taking plans. He admits he is not the kind who will wait for a long time for the batsman to make mistakes. He bowls in short bursts, and makes the batsmen make mistakes. Just bowl stump to stump, and bowl fast, and intimidate the batsmen with bouncers if you need to. The ball thudding into the body of the batsmen could he heard around the Karnail Stadium, where usually the most dominant sound is the train horns from the nearby New Delhi railway station.
Son of an A-Division Mumbai club player, Uday Deshpande, Tushar is an example of someone who is not over-coached and has the intelligence to work things out on his own. He knows his pace is not all natural; it is training, rehab, prehab, technique, everything. He knows he can't afford to be inaccurate at his pace. "Can't just turn up and bowl like a madman." He has already helped Mumbai seal the Vijay Hazare title this year, and if he can keep up what he has done in the season opener, a spot in an A team might not be too far.