Back in 2015, Delhi left-hander Nitish Rana was one of the 22 players banned by the BCCI in the alleged age-fudging racket. Just a bunch of North Indian boys doing the North Indian things, a few people chuckled.
Even before the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) season, Rana was reportedly under the scanner for lying about his age (he is officially 29 years old). In 2023, Rana is captain of Kolkata Knight Riders, a high-profile team owned by superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
Had Rana been humiliated and discarded, a fine talent would have been lost. He got a second chance and he grabbed it with both hands.
Now, Rana is waiting for another chance. He’s played three international games for India (an ODI and two T20Is against Sri Lanka). He is out of the national team but he says the hunger to play for the country has only increased.
AGGRESSIVE, HANDY PLAYER
You can make a Delhi boy captain Kolkata, but you can’t take Delhi out of him. Rana plays with an aggression that’s so typical of North India, and his run-ins with the opponents (Delhi teammate Hrithik Shokeen) is just one example. He’s also a very handy cricketer – hard-hitting lefty who can bat anywhere, a useful slow bowler, and an excellent fielder – makes him an ideal T20 player.
Rana has scored more than 300 runs in the IPL every season for the past six years, and with 229 runs in 2023 (as of April 27), he is set to repeat the feat this year as well. He has set himself a target of 500 runs this season, and if he does manage that, KKR could find themselves in the playoffs.
If anyone thought Rana would wilt under pressure while leading KKR, where expectations are demanding, they have been proved wrong. He got the captaincy only because the regular skipper, Shreyas Iyer, suffered a serious injury.
Rana’s demeanour on the field, and his tactics even while leading international cricketers, has been praiseworthy, despite that joust with Shokeen. Addressing the media after his promotion as captain, Rana said, “Leadership is not new for me. I have been a part of the leadership group for the last two to three years. I have got the captaincy tag this time but I’m not going to take extra pressure just because of the tag. I don’t think there is anything new. I love taking responsibility.”
About pressure, he said, “Captaincy is just a tag. Whenever you do something for the first time in life, there will be a bit of pressure. As a batter, I have played more than 100 games. A player will be scared of getting out in the first few deliveries.”
Rana’s friends say domestic bliss has contributed to his approach on the field. In 2019, he married his long-term girlfriend Saachi Marwah, cousin of Indian comedian Krushna Abhishek. Having his wife around cheering him on has certainly had a positive impact on Rana, as he awaits the next chapter in his career, which is a regular Team India player.
“I’m eager (to play for India) but not worried,” he said in a media interaction. “My job is to score runs and win games and that’s what I’m focusing on.”