I would like to play for Mumbai Indians if given a chance: Rohan Kunnummal [Interview]
Sanju Samson was my greatest inspiration in the nets, said Kunnummal.
Rohan Kunnummal might have been a late entrant in Ranji Trophy at the age of 23 but the promising batter proved that it is the dedication level and patience that ultimately matter as he enjoyed a dream 2021/22 season for Kerala with three consecutive centuries under his belt. The Palakkad cricketer amassed 417 runs from four innings averaging 139 and a phenomenal strike rate of close to 90 (89.66) and is also the first Kerala player to score three straight Ranji Trophy tons.
In an exclusive interview with CricTracker, Rohan shares his experience of having represented Kerala in nearly all age-group levels, his passion to take up the game, the guidance of the current India head coach Rahul Dravid as well as Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup-winning coach Dav Whatmore, etc.
Here are the excerpts from Rohan Kunnummal’s interview:
1. You have played for Kerala in almost every age group. Can you throw light on your early cricketing journey?
Yes, I had the privilege of playing for the state in all categories, except for one year, in which I was not selected for the under-16 team. This exclusion made me concentrate more on my play in order to make a comeback. It made me more responsible and focused. I was advised to start preparing for the under-25 category when I was just 15 by Sri. Sanil Chandran, the then secretary of Kozhikode District Cricket Association. That has helped me to gain confidence and focus on my goal.
2. When did you exactly decide that you wanted to become a cricketer? What was your parents’ or family’s reaction to it?
I have had a passion for the game since my childhood. I had the privilege of playing for the state under-14 category when I was 13 and at that point in time, I made a decision to take cricket as my passion. My dad was my motivator, friend, and guide in my game. He accompanied me to all my training camps and made vital suggestions to improve my game. I had great support from my family: Mom, grandfather, uncle as well as my teachers and friends. I was shaped by all of them.
3. You were a part of the U19 squad that was coached by Rahul Dravid. What impact has he made on your game? Have you still stayed in touch with him?
Rahul Dravid was a great inspiration and the one and half months’ time that I spent with him made me understand that I need to be on the ground even when I soar to heights. He is accessible at any point in time, free to interact, cool, and composed. He had answers to all questions from his own prolonged experience. He gave me tips to fine-tune myself which was so beneficial to me in my later career.
4. Your experience working with Dav Whatmore in Kerala set up?
I was fortunate to be associated with such a legendary figure, who was instrumental in making the team lift the World Cup. He was simple and provided tips to maintain my composure during the innings and reminded me of keeping my temperament under control.
5. You recently became the first player from Kerala to score three back-to-back tons in Ranji Trophy. Were you aware of the record and how has it been since then with all the accolades following?
I never thought of any record or personal achievement. When I went out to bat for the third innings, I had only one focus and that was to lead the team to victory. Even my century was a part of it only. In fact, the entire team was bent on victory and I am happy that I could play a part in it.
6. Sanju Samson is one of the top cricketers in Kerala. Have you discussed anything about your batting with him? Any suggestions or tips he has given to you?
Sanju Samson was my greatest inspiration in the nets and in the ground. I had a number of discussions with him on my batting, and I was fortunate to be associated with him. He is not only accessible round the clock but replies to all queries. I am lucky to have such a player by my side.
7. Your favorite former and current Indian cricketer and why?
It is none other than Sachin Tendulkar. He was the hero when I was a child and when I began my career. My passion for the game was set by legends like him. In the present day, I like Virat Kohli, especially his attitude towards winning the game.
8. Red-ball cricket wasn’t played at all due to the pandemic. How did you work on your skills specifically for the Ranji Trophy?
I had not made any particular preparations for the red-ball cricket, but I paid attention to improvising my attitude to the game more than my skills. Maybe, I focused on shaping my approach to a game like Ranji Trophy, especially its format. I worked on my mindset and attitude rather than skills and how to apply them to my game. Furthermore, I focused on fitness under the efficient trainer Vysakh Krishna.
9. Any of your U19 teammates you are still in touch with?
My contacts with them are quite limited, except the Goan pace bowler, Herem Parek, and Kerala players like Sijo and Darrell.
Your favorite format? Test, ODI, or T20I and why?
It’s ODI where I can play naturally. It allows space for me to settle and play.
10. You were selected in the India U19 squad for the youth ODI series against England U19 but later you had to miss out as BCCI decided to let only those players who would be eligible to play the 2018 U19 Cricket WC to take part in the series. What was your reaction that time?
I was in tears when I heard the news of selection, though I played well on the previous day, making a contribution of 40 runs in the victory. The decision made me depressed, but my dad had great confidence in me and said what is in store for me will definitely happen. Then the news of the visit of the England team was announced and I was fortunate to represent our country.
11. You were initially trained by your father, what was his advice to you?
My father always asked me to dream big. He was the first to fill me with confidence. He was my role model in character, especially when making courteous behavior with everyone. He has bowled thousands of balls to me, there are days when he bowled 300 to 500 balls. He has asked me to focus on fielding as well. He was always positive and was my pillow in times of trouble and depression. He advised me not to fall prey to bad habits that might adversely affect my career.
12. If given a chance, which IPL team would you like to represent?
Definitely. I would like to play for Mumbai Indians if given a chance.
13. You have represented Kerala in U14, U16, U19, and U25 competitions, who is your closest teammate?
Salman, Vishnu Vinod, Akhil Anil, Athif, trainer Vysakh, to name a few are my closest teammates.
14. Who was your cricketing idol growing up?
Sachin Tendulkar, obviously. I also admire Suresh Raina, who happened to be a great inspiration for me.
15. Challenges you faced in red-ball cricket?
I had to shift my natural playing style at times to suit the needs of my team and it has created certain challenges for me to adapt to the situations.