RANJI TROPHY 2018-19
When he was handed over the reins of captaincy, he went about the job with confidence. © TNN
Short and stocky with a gentle smile, Team Rajasthan captain Mahipal Lomror’s life is a mixture of traditional customs and modern ways. The 20-year-old is very much a new-age cricketer who is not only ready to play out of his skin, but is someone who likes to have a fitness plan over an insurance scheme. He considers constant chirping on the field as a morale booster and loves to visit home in Nagaur only during Diwali and Holi. When he was handed over the reins of captaincy, he went about the job with confidence. In a freewheeling chat with TOI, the young skipper shares his experience as a leader, his equation with seniors and his preparation for the quarterfinal match against Karnataka. Excerpts.
How does it feel to be the captain of the team that is doing so well?
I am really happy about the way things have transpired and am looking forward to carrying on the great work. It is also a proud moment that under my captaincy Team Rajasthan could make it to the quarterfinals after almost 7-8 years.
You are not new to captaincy as earlier you have led Under-16 and Under-19 teams. But how different is it to captain the seniors’ team when you are just 20 and only two domestic seasons old?
There is great deal of difference in which I conduct myself when it comes to the seniors’ team as it was more casual and carefree conduct when I was leading players of my batch. I certainly cannot just say any random thing that comes to my mind. But the best part is that the seniors in this team are very supportive and even when at times I address them aggressively, they take it very sportingly. This helps me be at ease.
How challenging has the journey so far been for you given that now you are a captain and have to take calls and address seniors?
When I was made the captain there was no negative bone in the team and I was welcomed by one and all. Vijay Hazare outing was a disaster and despite the team being low on confidence and self-doubt creeping in, we all decided to come together as a team and fight our way back in Ranji Trophy. So the spirit of playing as a unit has worked wonders for us. Seniors like Rajesh Bishnoi, Ashok Menaria, Robin Bist and Aniket Choudhary have played a vital role in boosting the morale.
In the past whenever Rajasthan lost, it was blamed on the fractured system. With a performance like this, do you think that it is actually not that difficult to defy the odds?
I still feel that if Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) starts functioning properly, it will boost our preparation as a team because from past 4-5 years we all practice individually and hardly get 20 days or so to bond as a group. This winning streak certainly does not take away the importance of the association.
In 2017-18 you were made the vice-captain of the seniors’ team. But did you expect that so early you will be given the responsibility of handling the team?
In the selection matches I was made the captain, so somewhere I had the inkling that I might get to lead the side. So mentally I was prepared for the challenge.
As a captain have you laid down any dos and don’ts for the team?
Basically, it is as a group that we decided before starting out for Ranji preparation that whether we lose or win, there will be no negative talks, no cribbing and no blame game and we stuck to the plan. In first two Ranji games we failed to get first innings lead, but still we were backing each other and eventually that spirit helped us bounce back in the games.
Is it a new culture in the team where such rules have been laid for the good of the team?
Sticking to these rules have immensely benefited the dressing room environment. I feel there is more positivity now and every player is taking responsibility.
You have an image of a power hitter who bats down the order. Whose decision was it to promote you to number 3? Do you think batting one-down requires a lot of maturity and you have proved this season that you are cut out for every format of the game?
That’s not true. I have mostly batted in top 4 positions, but it is the T20 format where I have played the role of a pinch-hitter who can also bowl. In Under-19 World Cup I played the role of an all-rounder and it is from there that everyone created this image of mine. Batting at number three in Ranji Trophy was a collective decision made by the management and it was also one spot that was still tentative. Now when I have got the opportunity I have made the most of it.
You were a part of Under-19 Indian team that was coached by Rahul Dravid. Then in IPL you have played under Ajinkya Rahane. How much has been the learning under their tutelage?
Rahul sir has a great role to play in the way I approach the game. He is one person who taught me how to handle failures and stay grounded when at peak. And in Ajju bhaiya it is his calmness in every situation that inspires me to emulate him.
What kind of a relationship you share with the teammates?
I share a great rapport with everyone, it’s like a family. But it is with Ashok Bhaiya that I interact most because even when I was playing Under-14, I used to interact with him a lot to take advice.
Describe the present dressing room atmosphere.
It’s great. We all are hungry to win more games.
How are you approaching the game against Karnataka in Bangalore?
We will be as intense as in previous games. Karnataka are a strong team and that is why they have made it to this stage. We are not taking anything lightly and are not getting carried away by our recent good showing.