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Joseph reveling in dream IPL start

Domnic Muthuswami makes a valiant attempt to stop a boundary BCCI

Bowling to MS Dhoni in the 17th over of an IPL match is nothing but asking for trouble. That too for an IPL debutant. But when you concede just a single off three balls bowled to a fearsome batsman like Dhoni, and end up conceding just one run in the over along with a wicket, you have got to be elated.

Welcome to the world of Domnic Joseph Muthuswami. The 34-year-old from Pune, who till four years ago was primarily a tennis-ball cricketer and made bullets for a living, impressed on his debut not only with two decent overs up front but also with the 17th over he bowled in Chennai Super Kings' innings of Delhi Daredevils' tournament opener last week.

The bowling effort ended up earning accolades from not only his team-mates but also from India's World Cup-winning captain. No wonder then that it was the most cherished moment of his short career at the top level. "When a player like Dhoni bhai tells you 'well bowled', it has to be the biggest compliment in your career. It was definitely the most memorable moment for me when he told me so after the match when I met him briefly," Joseph told ESPNcricinfo.

Since then, his WhatsApp display picture is of him posing with Dhoni after the game in Chennai.

Apart from the pressure he was feeling of bowling to "top-class international batsmen," Joseph was also bogged down by a packed house at the MA Chidambaram Stadium - despite three locked stands at the home of Super Kings. All through his tennis ball and first-class career, Joseph hadn't played a match with a turnout that was bigger than a thousand spectators or so.

"I did have pangs in the stomach but all the seniors in the Daredevils team helped me calm down and deliver my best," Joseph said. "It is one thing bowling in big stadiums in front of near-empty stands like we do in domestic cricket but it becomes a completely different ball game when you have to do so in front of thousands of spectators cheering from the stands."

A week since making his IPL debut, Joseph returned to the Daredevils team and bowled in front of an even bigger turnout when they faced Kings XI Punjab on Wednesday night. But this time around, Joseph wasn't really bothered about performing in the middle of more than 40,000 spectators.

His family and friends had turned up in big numbers to see their own "Dom," as he is fondly called, doing them proud at his home ground. "It's a different feeling altogether when all your family members and some of the closest friends watch you from the stands. You know they will always back you, irrespective of how you fare."

Joseph didn't have an impressive outing against Kings XI but that has not halted his dream ride. Daredevils may have had a reason to celebrate on Wednesday night after winning their first game of the season and breaking an 11-match losing streak. But one of their players has been having the time of his life for the last fortnight or so.

First it was the turn of Gary Kirsten. So impressed was the former India and South Africa coach with Joseph's performance in the practice games that he not only praised him, but also included him in the XI for Daredevils' opening game of the season against Super Kings, ahead of Test bowler Jaydev Unadkat.

"Just before the match in Chennai, Gary told me to keep bowling the same way like I had been in our practice games. I am glad I could live up to his faith," Joseph said.

Despite being in the thirties, Joseph was recommended to the Daredevils management by Pravin Amre. The Daredevils assistant coach saw Joseph extract appreciable bounce with his immaculate line and length during the West Zone one-dayers, and shortlisted him for the auction.

For a player with as humble a background as Joseph's, an IPL contract could well give a sense of fulfilment. Not for Joseph. "I feel it's just the beginning. Got to learn a lot about the game by bowling to a different class of batsmen and then keep on improving my game."