: Four years ago at the Thalassery Cricket Stadium, Sachin Baby made a promising Ranji Trophy debut. Coming in at one down, and chasing Andhra’s huge first innings total, he batted beautifully until he was run out for 32.
He surely looked the brightest hope for Kerala cricket then. But the hopes slowly began to fade as he failed to do anything of note in the Ranji Trophy since that debut.
He had a miserable time at the Ranji tournament this year too, and was dropped towards the end of the season. He took that in his stride, went back to the basics and worked hard on his batting.
The 24-year-old was then made Kerala captain for the South Zone One-Day tournament in Goa. He led from the front and batted with authority to power Kerala to the runner-up spot, which gave the team a place in the Vijay Hazare all-India tournament for the first time in history.
In the quarterfinal match against a formidable Punjab, he scored a blistering unbeaten 104 off just 70 balls, which set up a stunning 46-run win. “That was the best knock in my life,” Sachin told The Hindu over telephone from Visakhapatnam on Friday, on the eve of Kerala’s semifinal against Assam.
“After my innings, Yuvraj Singh gifted me his gloves and that meant a lot to me, as he is one of my favourite batsmen — Mike Hussey is the other.”
Sachin now has 298 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, from six matches, at an average of 99.33 and strike-rate of 130.70. He is the fourth highest run-getter in the country and with the best strike-rate.
Finally, Sachin seems to have come of age after years of promise.
“Yes, I have never batted better in my life,” he said. “Though I have had several big scores in various age-category tournaments, senior cricket is a different ball game and it feels nice making big scores at this level.”
Ever since playing for the Kerala under-13 side in 2000, the Thodupuzha-born Sachin has been in the State side every year, in different age-group events. “And I have led Kerala’s under-13, 15, 17, 19, 22 and 25 sides,” he said. “I have always relished captaincy,” added Baby. He is delighted to be named in the South Zone Deodhar squad, along with two other Kerala players — Sandeep Warrier and Sanju Viswanath. “We have all been rewarded for our good show in Goa, where Prasanth Parameswaran and Rohan Prem too performed brilliantly,” he said.
Sachin, who was signed up by Rajasthan Royals for this year’s IPL, is also a brilliant fielder. “I would say he is one of the top five fielders in India,” said Kerala coach Sujith Somasunder. “He saves 20-30 runs on the field in every game.”
The coach added that Sachin had the potential to become an even better batsman. “He is terrific in One-Day cricket; his game is suited for that,” he said. “If he works harder on his batting in the longer version of the game, he could achieve even more success.”