Eighteen-year-old B. Aparajith, who was part of the victorious U-19 World Cup cricket team speaks to Priyadarshini Paitandy on balancing studies and sports

Aparajith is feverishly flipping through a Commerce textbook with one hand and spinning a cricket ball with the other. “As long as I have this in my hand I can’t really focus on anything else,” he smiles putting aside the ball. A Class XII student of St. Bede’s school, this all-rounder, a key member of the victorious U-19 World Cup team, has been playing matches for most of the calendar year. As a result, he missed appearing for three subjects in the board exams. That explains the disgruntled expression on his face as he has to memorise chapters and write his exams.

“I am used to this now. I feel most students who play sports also do well in studies because they know how to manage time. I scored 82 per cent in my Class X exam,” he says.

The 18-year-old cheers up as we start discussing cricket and says that as long as he gets to play the sport these small sacrifices don’t matter because the game has given him so much. “When we came back in August from our Under-19 World Cup win in Townsville, Australia, the welcome we got at the Mumbai and Chennai airport was awesome. At Mumbai people had gathered to greet us with garlands. The BCCI had organised a felicitation programme for us.”

At the finals, they had to chase down a target of 225. Aparajith batted at No. 3 and scored 33 runs and took a wicket. On the whole he scored a total of 171 runs and took five wickets in six matches. “It was a good wicket and our coach told us to play to our potential and treat it like a normal match. It was nice to play under Unmukt’s captaincy. He is calm and gives bowlers enough freedom,” says Aparajith.

The team spent 25 days in Townsville, where they would often get invited by Indian families for dinner. Since it’s a quiet town, the boys didn’t have much to do apart from practising and bonding with each other. “Sachin Tendulkar spoke to us just before we left for the World Cup. He highlighted the importance of team spirit and dealing with pressure. He told us when the team is together we can handle pressure better. His advice helped,” says the youngster.

Even though he has played numerous league and Ranji matches, Aparajit feels the World Cup win has brought him more recognition. “It’s an advantage because you can break into the National team from here. But it takes time and a lot of hard work.”

Given that brother Indrajith is into competitive cricket and father the media manager of the National side, was there any pressure on him to take up cricket? “Not at all. My brother and I were four when our father put us in a coaching academy. I used to enjoy the game. At seven I had the ambition to play for the country. At nine I played for the State, then for the U-13, U-16 and now U-19.”

Sibling revelry

And how is it having a twin brother playing the same game? Is there any sibling rivalry? “I would say it’s an advantage. We always talk and discuss our game and advise each other on ways to improve. When I was away for the World Cup, he would watch me play and call to give feedback. And as for rivalry there isn’t any. In fact I can’t even remember the last time we fought.” Apparently, the only thing they ever fought over was the remote control. To avoid any tussle over clothes, the twins’ mother always bought them same clothes in the same colour. Indrajith is the older of the twins, by 26 minutes. “He is also the active one. I am lazy. Every time there is an early morning practice, he wakes up first and gets ready and then I get up,” grins Aparajith.

Just back from playing the Challenger Trophy in Rajkot, where he was part of the winning India B team, Aparajith is now playing the first division league match for India Cements.

“There is not much I do apart from playing cricket,” he confesses. He is a newcomer to the world of leisure reading and is currently reading Michael Phelps autobiography No Limits. “My coach asked me to read it as it’s inspirational. I listen to music and whenever I get time I hang out with friends and watch movies. At other times I am busy cramming studies in between cricket practice,” he smiles.