In this chat with ESPNcricinfo, Rana offers a peek into his technique changes, Gautam Gambhir's mentorship, his Mumbai Indians stint and the things that have helped him thrive in the chaotic world of Delhi cricket
As a newcomer, I was fresh. I didn't have much to lose and everything to gain. I got a lot of experience. I made two fifties, I guess, and one hundred. In my last innings against Karnataka, I scored a century.
Absolutely. My coach, my father and mother… there was a time last year when I got dropped from the Delhi side, before the IPL. I stopped believing in myself and doubted if I could make it at this level. Then, my family, coaches and the friends closest to me helped a lot. They made me believe that I am the same Nitish Rana of two or three years back and that I can make it.
"I am not the kind that would go and talk to every other person about my technique, but I know that even if I call Gautam bhaiyya at 2am to speak about a problem, he will stand up for me. That holds a lot of importance for me.
My stance was a bit too side-on, as a result of which I couldn't see the ball until the end. So Gautam bhaiyya made me open up a bit and also asked me to work on my backlift. I haven't made too many major changes to my batting ever, but I felt then that it was the time to change things a bit.
Before the IPL, I didn't even know I had the ability to be a powerful striker. But going there and observing others around me hitting the ball, I gradually started developing the same.
My coach, Sanjay Bharadwaj. But most importantly, with the amount of local cricket that happens in Delhi, if I get out today, there is another match waiting for me tomorrow. So I never had the fear of failure. Even if there was fear, knowing that I had another chance coming my way the next day alleviated it. So I started doing new things in every match I played. Eventually, they became ingrained into my system. But had so many matches not been happening, and had I taken these things straight from practising in the nets to the IPL, things would have been very different and very difficult.
I was just asked to enjoy my game because I am young. Had they put too much pressure on me, I probably wouldn't have done as well. I was just told to back myself and play my natural game. I did that and I was in my zone for the first few matches. In one match, I scored a fifty or something against Kolkata Knight Riders, a match which Hardik [Pandya] and I won. Till the 18th over, I didn't even know what the team score was, I was so much in my zone. What was happening around me made no difference to me. As a T20 game progresses, your heartbeat goes up and you feel tensed, but I felt no such thing. I was batting so freely in the trust that at some point, something or the other will work in my favour. That belief was very important.
From what I have realised, I was overthinking. And it also had to do with circumstances and the people around me. People were forcefully pointing out the flaws in me, so I was caught up in myself. I was so trapped within myself that I wasn't able to concentrate. If I have to be honest with you, when I was batting last year, I couldn't see the ball. I was practically batting blindly. That is exactly what I discussed with Gautam bhaiyya, and with Sachin sir [Sachin Tendulkar] and Mahela Jayawardene after going to the IPL. Speaking to them cleared up my mind, and I realised, "Right, if they have played cricket this way, why don't I try the same?" Doing that, I noticed that I was at a lot more ease with my game.
No, because I had enough belief in my ability to know that a bad phase was due. But, yes, the help I received from people around me was very important. The technical aspect is fine, but mentally, the way my family, friends and coach helped me was very important. Had I not spoken to those people, it would have made it difficult for me to get back into that zone.
He has been a huge influence. Me and Gautam bhaiyya are from the same club, so the first time I held a bat, he was batting at a net in front of me. And he was such a big name when I was young. I have been seeing him since childhood, whatever I have learned has been from him. I am not the kind that would go and talk to every other person about my technique, but I know that even if I call Gautam bhaiyya at 2am to speak about a problem, he will stand up for me. That holds a lot of importance for me.
The first year I played, I had just one hundred, and in the second year, too, I got only one hundred. That is what I am trying to develop: how to convert those fifties and sixties into hundreds. I just want to make as many big scores as I can. That is something I am learning and trying to adopt. I don't know how it will happen, but until I don't try it won't happen. So that's my goal: if I am playing, I play a big innings, because all around me, I see every other person is scoring a 200 or a 300. I, too, want to do the same: the day I bat, I bat big.
One or two years back, I was young and immature. When I used to bat, till 40 or 50, I used to feel like I have to keep going. But as soon as I crossed 50, I used to relax and play the wrong shots. Whenever I have spoken to Gautam bhaiyya or any other senior, they have all told me to play one ball at a time. That's where my effort has been. Even if I'm batting at 150 or 300, I have all eyes on the ball I am about to face, and not the previous one or the one after that.
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo