Mumbai has always been the life-line of Indian cricket. They have won the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier domestic cricket competition a record 41 times since its inception. Since the last decade, they have had the services of Dhawal Kulkarni. "DK," as he is affectionately called has been their opening bowler, blessed with a wonderfully smooth action that generates a fair bit of movement and pace off the wicket. His most potent ball is the outswinger to the right-hander and a dangerous inswinger to a left-hander. An experienced campaigner, he has now brought in several variations through many hours of hard work. Practice, he says, is the only way to achieve perfection. The aura around him is that of a silent killer, very much like the West Indian pace bowlers of yore. A pleasant friendly smile, without much ado, is all that he exhibits when he gets a batsman out. He has been a part of the IPL from its very beginning and none of the 75 wickets that he has captured has had a hip-hop dance or an expressive body movement to celebrate his success.
This matured outlook and values he says is what he has imbibed from his parents and family. Cricket was always his passion since he was very young. He was fortunate to have a ground close to his residence and a devoted father who supported him continuously. He made every bit of sacrifice to ensure that his son got all the opportunities to hone his cricketing skills. His grandfather was the one who instilled the dream of playing for India and with an emotional response, he recalls as to how he tirelessly worked to fulfil his and his grandfather’s goal. He played for India against England in the 4th ODI at Edgbaston in 2014, a dream that came true.
His mother's, Maharashtrian cuisine is what he enjoys the most and her whole-hearted support in whatsoever he did is what drove him to excel. His sister, a national level 10 meters Air rifle shooter, is always there to get his aim correct, whenever, she felt he was veering off his target.
In his early school days at IES VN Sule Guruji, Dadar, the school famous for one of India’s legendary batsman, Dilip Vengsarkar, he too was known for his batting skills. He opened the innings and under the guidance of his coach and a former Mumbai player, Gopal Kohli, he developed into an all-round cricketer. He played Junior cricket in Mumbai at all the age groups and was very much a part of the young Mumbai brigade.
A life-changing moment for him was when he got wickets in the Sportstar tournament and was selected for the MRF Pace foundation camp in Chennai. A few brief moments with Dennis Lillee and many hours of tutoring by the renowned Indian bowling coach, T.A. Sekhar, changed his outlook to cricket entirely. Bowling became his mantra to achieve success.
He mushroomed as a bowler and took up the art as a duck to water. A few corrections to his action and he became a lethal bowler on a grassy fast wicket. He captured wickets in the U-17 and the U-19 age groups and was selected to represent India in the U-19 tour of Sri Lanka. A natural progression because of his consistent good performances, including some for New Hind Sporting in the Mumbai club league, got him the most prestigious cap for a Mumbai cricketer, “The Mumbai Lion”.
He made his debut under RR’s batting coach, Amol Muzumdar and with Ajinkya Rahane, his Mumbai colleague and RR Captain, along with Sairaj Bahutule the bowling coach and Zubin Bharucha as the Head of Cricket, one can visualise the Mumbai “Khadoos” mental values and strength filtering into the way of playing cricket into the DNA of Rajasthan Royals.
Dhawal is shy, silent and blessed with a calm temperament. He got married to Shraddha just two years ago. He keeps life simple by enjoying movies, music and his type of food. Paucity of time has been a deterrent in him completing his B. Com, but he intends to finish it as soon as he hangs up his boots.
At present, he is concentrating wholeheartedly on his fitness and health. He spends hours training at the gym and at the nets to ensure that he remains fit at all times. He enjoys meditating and is very religious. A visit to a temple is a must for him and he now prays that with the knowledge he has acquired over the decade of playing 1st class cricket, that his prayers are answered for that “one moment of time”, and that is to play once again for his country.
Dhawal has another mission in life as well and that is to start an academy for the needy and the municipal school students. This he says needs to wait, as his sole aim at present, is to do well and enjoy his cricket career and make RR win the IPL 2018. A full bowling “Strike” of knocking down all the opponent's pins, is what he is looking to accomplish every time he bowls.
About the author:
Yajurvindra Singh is a former cricketer who represented India between 1977 and 1979. He enjoys the unique distinction of achieving 2 world records – 5 catches in an innings, and 7 catches in a match - on his debut.