Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton’s tips have helped me develop confidence: Sachin Baby

CricketCountry’s Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Kerala cricket’s rising star Sachin Baby. The left-handed batsman has been selected for the India A team to play New Zealand A. In an exclusive chat, he spoke about his progress, Kerala cricket’s growth, Rahul Dravid’s influence and, of course, his name.

When you hear “Sachin Baby”, you may automatically picture a curly haired 16-year-old boy taking on Pakistan in his maiden international series in 1989. But, that is the name of Kerala cricket’s rising star who has recently made it to the India A squad for the limited overs matches against New Zealand A. Baby had a great domestic one-day season — during which he captained Kerala — and also went on to play for Rajasthan Royals at the Indian Premier League (IPL), 2013. In nine List A games during the 2012-13 season, Baby scored 389 runs at 77.80 with one hundred and three fifties. What caught the eye was that he scored at a strike-rate of 122.71.

Excerpts from an interview:

CricketCountry (CC): You have had a very good season for Kerala, especially in one-day cricket. Did you expect this call-up for the series against New Zealand A?

Sachin Baby (SB): Not really. I was only looking to perform at the domestic level last season where I did well in the one-dayers and T20s. It was a great surprise for me that I was given a call-up to represent India A against New Zealand A.

CC: Your name does invoke a lot of interest. I am sure you have been asked this question many times. Have you been named after Sachin Tendulkar? What is the story behind your name?

SB: I was born in Thodupuzha, Kerala, before Sachin paaji made his international debut and my parents were looking for a name. They are very interested in cricket and watched him on the screen when he was playing. So, they decided to name me Sachin. My father’s name is PC Baby, so they ultimately finalised on the name Sachin Baby.

CC: There is a lot of interest for football in Kerala and cricket wasn’t really popular to be taken up as a sport there. Did your parents’ interest lead you to choose cricket naturally?

SB: My parents love cricket. My mother in particular has followed cricket a lot and used to watch most matches on television. As you said, football was more popular, so as a kid I did play and even went for trials when I was 10. I used to play both football and cricket in school, and a year down the line the Association called me saying that there was a trial in our district, so I went and got selected. That is how cricket started for me.

CC: You have progressed through the age groups to make your way to the senior side. Kerala isn’t a known centre for the sport. How difficult was it for you to get noticed?

SB: I have been captaining age-group sides right since the Under-13s. That gave me a lot of confidence that I could do it. It was difficult for me to come into the senior side though. At the Under-22 level, I scored a double hundred against Maharashtra. That led to my call-up to the senior team.

CC: During the 2012-13 season, you were particularly good in the one-day games. What made the difference for you this season? Did you make any technical adjustments?

SB: The Ranji Trophy wasn’t a good one for me as I did not score runs. In fact, for the last two games, I wasn’t even in the eleven. So, after that I was down and moody. At that time, [Shanthakumaran] Sreesanth was there in the Ranji team. He told me, “You are a very good player and can come up. Don’t give up. Practice hard and work hard.” We had a one-month gap between the Ranji Trophy and the domestic one-dayers and I worked very hard in that time period. During that phase, four of us from Kerala were also called up to the Rajasthan Royals trials as Sreesanth recommended us. I batted brilliantly there and also scored runs in the practice games. It was then that I spoke to Paddy Upton, the coach of Rajasthan, and he told me that I have to work on the mental aspect. He told me that I should believe in myself and told me how to prepare and practice. Rahul bhai [Dravid] also said the same thing. After the trials I went to Kochi to practice with the Kerala one-day team and implemented what I was told. I was also appointed captain for the one-day and T20 games — which was a huge confidence boost.

For the first time in the history of Kerala cricket, we made it to the semi-finals of the one-day tournament. In the quarter-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, I scored a hundred against Punjab — a game where Yuvraj Singh was playing. Then, Rajasthan also confirmed that I had made it to the team for the IPL.

CC: The one-day record is good, but your First-Class record isn’t great. How do you endeavour to change that in the future?

SB: Yes, it is said that I am a one-day player. However, I have scored a lot of runs in age-group cricket in the longer versions. My double hundred at the Under-22 level is one of those outings. I know I can play the long version as well. Right now, I am working on my skills and also talking to my coach Sujith Somasunder to prepare for the upcoming season. Recently, we were in Bangalore for the KSCA tournament and in one of the games I scored an 81 ball 83.

CC: Kerala cricket has seen players emerge in the recent times. Sanju Samson and you have made it to the India A team for the limited overs matches. VA Jagadeesh is there in the squad for the four-day games. Do you think this is where Kerala cricket will take-off and how significant is this for it?

SB: This has happened because we did well in the one-day and T20 tournaments. That has led to people talking about Kerala. During the IPL, Harsha Bhogle spoke about how well Kerala has done and the players who have emerged. Seven players from Kerala’s main playing eleven have made it to IPL teams. Kerala cricket is certainly coming up. Sandeep Warrier made it to the India Under-23 team for the Asia Cup. Sanju has been a part of India Under-19. Now, we have made it to the India A team. Jagadeesh has scored a lot of runs in the Ranji Trophy and the recent KSCA tournament. He was unlucky not to get into an IPL team. But, now that he has made it to the India A team, he is getting rewards for his hard work.

CC: Can you tell us about your experience of working with Rahul Dravid at Rajasthan Royals? How did mentor you and what was his influence like?

SB: We all know that he is a very nice person. He is ready to talk about cricket any time with the youngsters in the group. For the first few days, I was very afraid to go and talk to him. But, he is very friendly and always smiling. So, I asked him how he used to prepare when he was a 23 or a 24-year old. I was curious to know how he prepared for a match or came out of a bad patch. He gave a lot of tips in that regard and I noted them in my diary — which I follow.

CC: Selection into the India A team is a significant step for you personally. What do you wish to gain from this experience and what are your endeavours for the future?

SB: Every cricketer who starts playing here has a dream to play for India. Now, I am on the selectors’ radar. I made it to the India A team and I want to work very hard. With god’s blessings, hopefully, one day I would be there.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site`s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44»

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