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Joshi spins into big league

Devendra Pandey

Posted: Jan 19, 2013 at 0019 hrs IST

Mumbai: When Saurashtra off spinner Vishal Joshi skipped in to bowl to Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh in their Ranji Trophy semi-final at Rajkot, his mind inevitably travelled back to the days of listening anxiously to commentary of India matches in his father’s paan shop in Jamnagar. Joshi would have barely imagined then that he would one day bowl to his off-spin idol.

Joshi finished with figures of four for 59 as Saurashtra left Punjab struggling at 294 for nine at stumps. At the end of Day Three, the hosts led by 183 runs. Without star players Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja, Saurashtra’s progress this season has seen a number of less-known players performing at crunch moments. Joshi dismissed the Punjab top three and medium-pacer Jaydev Unadkat chipped in with three quick wickets.

“I was getting turn here with some bounce,” Joshi says. “I just kept my nerves and try not to think too much. It was big game for me.”

After all, this was the first time Jamnagar has seen him on TV. Joshi’s journey from the paan shop to the Ranji semifinals was not easy. The 23-year-old was a late starter, and was 16 when he first bowled in the nets. “I knew that my family couldn’t afford this game but they backed me,” he says.

Five years ago, his father Hareshbhai was hospitalised, and hasn’t recovered fully yet. His paan shop was shut and, at 18, Joshi became the family’s sole breadwinner. “I worked in a gutkha company as a supervisor for Rs 12,000 a month. With that money my family survived. I used to practice early in the morning and then rush to work. It was tough but I kept faith in god,” he says.

He was part of the Saurashtra U-19 squad and was then dropped for two years. He made his Ranji debut in the 2009-10 season, but played just two matches and didn’t feature even once in the two seasons after that.

This season, Joshi took 3 wickets in the U-25 CK Nayudu Trophy to force his way back in the Ranji Trophy team. He played only once in the league stages, taking three wickets in an outright win over Madhya Pradesh, before returning for the semifinal.

Joshi has played a massive role in putting Saurashtra right on top. If his team manage to maintain that advantage over the next two days, he will have helped his state reach their first ever final of a tournament named after perhaps their most famous son — KS Ranjitsinhji.

Brief Scores: Saurashtra 477 vs Punjab 294/9 (Ravi Inder 74, Jiwanjot 68, T Kohli 59; V Joshi 4/59, J Unadkat 3/52).

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