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Rohan Prem, captain of the Kerala team, on his cricketing journey

When Kerala took the field against Jammu and Kashmir in its Ranji Trophy match on November 17, it also marked the dawn of a new era. Predictions and expectations of many eminent cricketers and cricket lovers of the state had come true, as the 23-year-old Rohan Prem walked out for the toss as captain of the Kerala team.

Catching up with Rohan, the youthful exuberance and humility he portrays makes it quite hard to keep in mind that he indeed leads our charge in the premier domestic cricket tournament, brushing shoulders with the likes of S. Sreesanth and Co. every other day. A far cry from the media savvy professionals in the sports field, Rohan is as frank and down-to-earth a person as anybody else. He could in all aspects of the phrase be your perfect next door neighbour.

Ever since getting his break against Rajasthan in the 2005 Ranji season, the Thiruvananthapuram-born has been a consistent performer at the state level. Having scored his maiden century against Gujarat in the 2007 season, the left-hander followed it up in last year's Ranji season with three centuries including a crucial 138 against Goa.

He started off in fine form this season with a pleasing 91 against Andhra before the match against Maharashtra was washed out. And as skipper for the first time, his was admittedly a lacklustre performance against Jammu and Kashmir. However, having played at the India U-19 level in 2004 and after selection to last year's Duleep Trophy South Zone team, expectations are riding high on the shoulders of this proven performer.

Lived up to expectations

With all fairness Rohan has very much lived up to expectations. His greatest critic perhaps, is he himself. The ambitions and goals he sets himself, with the main target being to break into the national team within the next three years, is his greatest driving force. To achieve this goal, concentrating a lot more on his batting is one step Rohan is taking.

“The next two years are crucial in my development as a player and therefore I have to give more importance to my batting. I will always be a batsman who can bowl a bit,” says Rohan, who is a graduate from M.G. College, Thiruvananthapuram. Rohan believes that with a bit more effort from all quarters, Kerala could enter the Elite division of the Ranji Trophy within the next two years. He believes that all the required facets are in place for this. The grassroot level development of the game in Kerala over the last five years has been immense, says Rohan. The increasing number of turf wickets, well developed gymnasium facilities and availability of bowling machines and grounds with proper outfields too have definitely benefited the state's cricketers.

Acknowledging the impact of his family and friends in moulding his career, Rohan is thankful to his father, Prembhasan, who initiated him into the game. While, like most Indians of his generation, Sachin Tendulkar remains his idol, Mike Hussey's team spirit and consistency are what he admires most today. Keeping in tune with the experiences of Hussey (a late-bloomer into the Australian team) and his own experiences, Rohan has a message of hard-work and determination to pass on to budding cricketers. “There are no short-cuts in cricket. If you put in effort and are willing to make sacrifices, you are sure to reach your goal,” says Rohan.

VINEETH KRISHNAN

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