Engineering ‘drop-out’ picks up pace

Earlier this year, 21-year-old Kerala pacer Sankarankutty Sandeep Warrier faced a dilemma. Not yet a first-class cricketer, but a regular with the state under-25 side, he received a notice from his engineering college that he would have to repeat the seventh semester because of lack of attendance.

Warrier was confused, he needed to take a very important call. His parents were very pleased with his academics but his coach saw a quality fast bowler in him. After thinking long and hard, Warrier decided to ditch his books to concentrate on the cricket ball. He convinced his father, a banking professional, to let him pursue his cricketing dreams. The burden of academic expectation off his shoulder, had a liberating effect on the youngster.

In five Under-25 games Warrier scalped 19 wickets, a tally that fast-tracked him to the Kerala Ranji Trophy side, a team that plays in Group C. On being promoted, Warrier stepped it up. With 22 wickets in just four Ranji Trophy games, including eight-wicket hauls versus Tripura and Jharkhand — Kerala's only two wins this season — Warrier's progress is being watched with great interest in a state that has produced two Test players and both have been fast bowlers.

His parents are convinced now that their son's future is in the game and not in a Bachelor of Engineering degree.

"The greatest joy these wickets have given me is the smile on the faces of my parents. When I decided to stop studying they were apprehensive. But that has changed now. Because of lack of attendace, I would have had to pay Rs 90,000 to get readmitted. I decided against it," he says.

Recently, when Warrier returned home after the game against Jharkhand, he had a surprise gift waiting for him. "My father and mother gifted me a locket which depicted Lord Ganesha with a cricket bat and ball. I will now wear it during matches and I am sure it will bring me better luck," he says on the eve of Kerala's game against Andhra.

It has been just two years since Warrier got to regularly train with the new cricket ball at the Cordiant Club in Tripunithura, where coach K Ram Mohan convinced him that he owned the skill and physique (six foot, one inch) to play first-class cricket.

"Coach Ram Mohan did not ask me to alter my natural action and I felt extremely confident as it allows me to bowl the out-swinger. Till the age of 19, I never even thought I was good enough to play for my state. But Mohan asked me to think big because he felt I had the potential," Warrier said.

Impressive pace

What impressed Mohan initially was Warrier's pace — that was upwards of 140 kmph. "For someone who touches 140 kmph, Warrier is also very accurate. He has developed a good yorker and a bouncer. In the previous game against Jharkhand he dismissed Ishank Jaggi, who was batting on 90, with a bouncer and dismissed Saurabh Tiwary with a good out-swinger. It is still early days, but Sandeep is definitely improving," Ram Mohan said.

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