Nagpur: Without ever losing hope, Siddharth Kaul hopped from one venue to another all these years in the domestic circuit till, in a manner most unusual, he received the news of his maiden India call-up from the on-field umpires during a Ranji Trophy match.
Punjab was bowling against Services in Amritsar on Monday when match referee Sunil Chaturvedi sent in a message through umpires Vineet Kulkarni and K Srinath for Kaul.
"It was drinks break at that time and one of the umpires came up to me and said that match referee sir (Chaturvedi) had informed that I have been selected in the Indian ODI squad. I didn't know how to react at that moment. It was the biggest piece of news in my cricketing career and I got it on field," Kaul told PTI during an interaction.
The 27-year-old came into spotlight when he bowled the famous last over during that 2008 U-19 World Cup final against South Africa in Kuala Lumpur where Virat Kohli was leading the side.
Kohli has since gone onto become one of India's greatest batsmen, Ravindra Jadeja has been an established name from that squad while the likes of Saurabh Tiwary and Abhinav Mukund have made sporadic national team appearances.
But Kaul never lost hope all these years as he plied his trade for Punjab, North Zone, India A and Sunrisers Hyderabad consistently. He has 175 first-class wickets from 50 games and 99 List A scalps from 52 matches.
"I was always hopeful that if I keep performing, I would get my share of chances. Yes, it was a great feeling to win the U-19 World Cup but all these years I knew that good performance at the domestic level would be rewarded.
"I had to focus on being consistent in domestic cricket. That was my endeavour and this is a reward for that."
Talking cricket with senior pros like Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh has helped Kaul a great deal.
"Yuvi paaji and Bhajju paa are inspirations for all of us in the Punjab team. They have played so much of international cricket that even a slightest input during match situations can improve you as a bowler.
"Whenever they have been around, I have only gained as a player. It's not like they would coach you but just give you subtle hints about what to do in specific situations."
He has been a part of a number India A tours to places like Australia and South Africa and it also pushed his case as he got 13 wickets from five List A games.
"Playing for India A or IPL is top level cricket and it always gives you that confidence that you can belong to a certain level. What helped me was my interactions with Rahul Dravid. Rahul sir would always tell me that self belief is key for any player.
"At this level, it is about doing small things right on a consistent basis. That's what I did when I was playing against New Zealand A or South Africa A."
He was initially a late 120 kmph bowler but has of late managed to increase the pace, clocking in late 130kmp at times.
"I would give a lot of credit to our Punjab team trainer Sagar Diwan. He was associated with the Chandigarh Golf Club and now with the Ranji team. Training with him has increased my fitness and stamina and has also helped in increasing my pace. I am also able to move the ball both ways consistently."
His coach has always been his father Dr Tej Kaul, who, incidentally, was associated with the Indian team as a trainer in the late 80s and early 90s. A few years ago, a picture of toddler Siddharth sitting with a young Sachin Tendulkar during an Indian team's practice session in the early 90s became famous.
Kaul's elder brother Uday has also been a former India U-19 player, who had toured with India U-19s to England in 2006 a team that had both Kohli and Ishant Sharma.
Uday also plays for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy as a wicketkeeper and top-order batsman. He has played 93 first- class games scoring over 6000 runs.
"My father Dr Tej Kaul has always been my coach. Even today any technical difficulty I have with my bowling, I consult him. Also it helps that my elder brother Uday has been an established first-class cricketer and a wicketkeeper.
"When your brother is a wicketkeeper, you get first-hand input about how the ball is releasing out of your hand," Kaul concluded....