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Meet Ramesh Kumar, KKR's left-arm Narine from Jalalabad

An ability to turn the ball both ways and to smack it big has taken this allrounder all the way from Punjab's small-town tennis-ball circuit to the IPL

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Ramesh Kumar is known as Narine Jalalabadiya because his action is said to resemble that of the West Indies mystery spinner  •  Ramesh Kumar

Ramesh Kumar is known as Narine Jalalabadiya because his action is said to resemble that of the West Indies mystery spinner  •  Ramesh Kumar

Who is Ramesh Kumar?
Ramesh Kumar is a 23-year-old spin-bowling allrounder from Punjab's Jalalabad city. Ramesh is yet to play any representative cricket, so when Kolkata Knight Riders picked him at the IPL 2022 auction for INR 20 lakh, numerous viewers must have wondered who he was.
Ramesh was listed as a batter on the auction list, but his stronger suit is his bowling. A left-arm spinner, he has the ability to turn the ball both ways. On the internet, he goes by the moniker Narine Jalalabadiya because, according to Ramesh, his action resembles that of the West Indies and Knight Riders mystery spinner Sunil Narine.
Ramesh is a product of tennis-ball cricket, and in that circuit he is more famous for his six-hitting. If you search for "Narine Jalalabad" on YouTube, you will find videos of him hitting "5 SIXS" (sic) and smashing "50 runs in just 10 balls".
In another YouTube video, when the interviewer asks him who his favourite player is, Ramesh names a tennis-ball cricketer. When asked about his favourite bowler, he once again mentions a local player, giving a glimpse of the world he comes from.
If not for tennis-ball tournaments, he says, he would not have been picked in the IPL.
A tough initiation
Ramesh comes from a humble background. His father is a cobbler and his mother sells make-up products in neighbouring villages.
Like most kids from small cities, Ramesh's cricketing journey began with the tennis ball. Soon, people began to take notice of his skills with both bat and ball, and started inviting him to play local tennis-ball tournaments.
It wasn't straightforward, though. His family wanted him to find a good job and didn't fully back his passion for cricket. At times, Ramesh had to lie to them in order to play. Eventually, though, the prize money he won in tennis-ball tournaments helped pay for his education, and to complete his graduation.
The next step
After seeing him doing well in tennis-ball cricket, Ramesh's friends encouraged him to play with the cricket ball. Even though he had never had any formal coaching, he took the plunge and started dabbling in both tennis-ball and cricket-ball tournaments. Soon he was playing district cricket for Moga and emerged as one of the best bowlers.
How did KKR spot him?
After doing well at the district level, Ramesh was selected for the Punjab state camp last year. There he met Gurkeerat Singh Mann, the Punjab allrounder who played three ODIs for India in 2016. Ramesh told Mann about his financial situation and asked if he could suggest his name for any tournaments.
Mann promised to help in whatever way he could but said that at the end of the day, it was his performance that would decide everything. Mann got him a chance to play for Minerva Cricket Academy in the JP Atray Memorial Cricket Tournament. In his first match there, Ramesh picked up 5 for 35 in nine overs. In the next game, he bagged 4 for 32 from eight and was named Player of the Match.
Mann sent footage from those games to Abhishek Nayar, the Knight Riders assistant coach. Shortly afterwards, Knight Riders called Ramesh for trials, where they asked him to bowl and field, and later picked him at the auction.
What does this opportunity mean to Ramesh?
"This selection has changed my whole life," he says. "It has given me a platform. I have never played first-class cricket but I am sure the door for the Ranji Trophy will also open up from here. The ultimate goal is, of course, to play for India. And none of this would have been possible without God's grace and Gurkeerat paaji's help."

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo