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The Hindu
The Hindu
Ashwin Achal

Vidwath Kaverappa’s uncomplicated ‘top of off’ mantra works a treat

A captain’s dream: Kaverappa can bowl on off-stump or just outside off all day, while keeping the perfect length. As a result, the slip cordon can remain packed, improving the side’s wicket-taking chances. | Photo credit: Murali Kumar K
Up for the fight: Kaverappa says he welcomes challenging situations because he likes ‘to take on the heavy load and create big moments’. | Photo credit: Murali Kumar K

After ripping through North Zone with a five-for in the Duleep Trophy semifinal at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru recently, Vidwath Kaverappa was asked to explain the secret to his success.

The fast-bowler was quick to respond. “On any pitch, if you hit the top of off-stump line, every batsman in the world will find it difficult,” Kaverappa said.

This may appear to be overtly simple, but it has worked wonders. Just by sticking to the basics, Kaverappa had made a brilliant start to his First Class career, taking 49 wickets in 12 matches (with four five-wicket hauls).

He was the standout performer in the Duleep Trophy, winning the ‘Player of the Series’ award for his 15 wickets in two games. In the final against a strong West Zone, Kaverappa scalped the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Suryakumar Yadav and Sarfaraz Khan to end with figures of seven for 53 in the first essay.

Multiple cutting edges

Kaverappa’s self-analysis is spot on. The 24-year-old Karnataka cricketer can bowl on off-stump or just outside off all day, while keeping the perfect length. To make matters worse for batters, Kaverappa possesses a natural outswinger. An outside edge is always on the cards.

He can also take the ball the other way, as seen in the West Zone outing when Pujara was coaxed into flicking an in-dipper into the hands of leg-gully.

Kaverappa’s impeccable control makes him a captain’s dream. The slip cordon can remain packed, the sweeper cover is unnecessary, given that Kaverappa hardly ever offers loose deliveries. He presents a relentless test of patience for batters, who more often than not, are just a lazy (or frustrated) waft away from returning to the pavilion.

It must be said that Kaverappa benefits from playing in an age when most First Class batters are unwilling to dig in for the long haul. Even a few quiet overs will prompt an expansive shot, giving the consistent Kaverappa a chance to capitalise.

Adapting to the conditions

He has the skills to excel on different pitches — a trait he showed on the sticky M. Chinnaswamy Stadium strip. Kaverappa explained that using backspin was the way to go, so he could keep the seam dead straight, which helps the ball to hold slightly in the surface and deviate after pitching.

A few weeks before the start of the Duleep Trophy, Kaverappa had travelled to Windhoek with the Karnataka team for five one-day matches against the Namibia national team. He picked up six wickets from four bowling innings in the series and gained valuable match practice on his maiden overseas tour.

“It was nice to play outside India for the first time. It was good exposure for us to play against a national team. The conditions, the ground, the weather, the pitches, the players — everything was different. It was a good challenge for us,” he said.

Kaverappa made his senior debut for Karnataka at the end of the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy season, at a time when the side was in a transitional phase. The famed speedster trio of Vinay Kumar, S. Arvind and A. Mithun had moved on, leaving a big hole.

Kaverappa cemented his spot in the following season, taking 30 wickets in eight matches. He thrived when bowling alongside V. Vyshak, forming a fine new-ball combination. Now with V. Koushik making his mark in the Duleep Trophy final, it appears that Karnataka has found a new and deadly pace trio. If Prasidh Krishna can stay fit, the State team will count among the best attacks in the country.

Transition control

Kaverappa stated that he welcomed the challenge of filling the shoes of Vinay & Co. “I knew that my chance to make my Karnataka debut would come when the side is in a transitional phase. I’ve always liked responsibility. I like to take on the heavy load and create big moments,” he said.

A keen football fan, Kaverappa understood that sides that lose big names all of a sudden need time to rebuild. “I watch football a lot, so I know what happens when a great team loses all its great players at once. New players come in, and you need to be patient with them. I knew that when I entered the Karnataka team, I had to take my time and make the best of the opportunities,” he said.

Kaverappa was helped by the presence of Arvind, who served as the Karnataka bowling coach at the time. “I did learn a lot from him. Both of us don’t have express pace, so we have to use skills and variations. He helped me finetune my action a little bit. It worked like magic,” he said.

“Unlike Prasidh and Vyshak — both of whom have good pace — I have to seek other ways to get purchase from the pitch. I’ve watched great bowlers like Dale Steyn and Mohammed Shami. I’ve seen Shami’s bowling a lot recently — how good his seam presentation is. He keeps a good seam presentation even with the white ball. I realised that with the red ball, which has a more prominent seam, I can get even more help,” he added.

Born in Kodagu district, Kaverappa moved to Mangaluru to train under Samuel Jayaraj. Jayaraj, incidentally, is K.L. Rahul’s coach. Kaverappa rose up the ranks to compete for Mangalore Zone in the KSCA under-19 inter-mofussil tournament, before moving to Bengaluru to play in the senior division leagues.

“I’ve always looked up to my coach Samuel Jayaraj. Whatever I know about cricket today is because of him. If anything goes wrong with my bowling, I send my videos to him and we make corrections,” Kaverappa said.

Kaverappa’s next assignment is the Deodhar Trophy List-A 50-over tournament, which will commence at Puducherry on Monday. More white-ball action will follow in the Karnataka Premier League, where good performances can grab the attention of IPL scouts. Having sat on the bench for the full 2023 IPL season with Punjab Kings, Kaverappa will hope to get his chance to shine next year.

If he sticks to his “top of off-stump” mantra, continued glory is guaranteed across formats. “Since this is the start of my career, I have to learn as much as possible and adapt, so that I can take my State team and any other team that I play for to a higher level,” Kaverappa said.

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