In Delhi cricketing circles, Nitish Rana was always regarded as a terrific hitter of the ball. Perhaps not quite as explosive as his fellow compatriot Unmukt Chand or the young Rishabh Pant, but since scoring 299 runs in the 2015-16 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, everyone took notice of the 23-year-old’s attacking prowess. (IPL 2017 Full coverage)
His aggressive hitting was what perhaps caught the eye of the Mumbai franchise as well; signing him up for just Rs 10 lakh in the 2015 auction. Even though he didn’t get a game, they retained him. And this year, he has been repaying the faith with three 30-plus scores, including a half-century against Kolkata Knight Riders that gave them their first victory in the Indian Premier League.
Even though he had made his List A and T20 debut back in 2013 for Delhi, he was deemed fit for the Ranji Trophy only in 2015. He didn’t disappoint though, notching up a fine half-century along with captain Gautam Gambhir to steer Delhi to a victory over Vidarbha. He ended the campaign as Delhi’s highest run-getter, including a century and three fifties.
He picked up his second century against Assam this season with a 220-run stand with Rishabh Pant. However, as the 2016/17 season went on, his struggles mounted. He was dropped from the Delhi side during the Vijay Hazare Trophy after he returned with paltry scores in three consecutive games. With his successful stint at the IPL this season, those few patches wouldn’t matter.
Gambhir, who watched Rana snatch victory for Mumbai against Kolkata Knight Riders from the dug-out, has always been a firm supporter of the swashbuckling southpaw. He slammed Delhi coach KP Bhaskar when Rana was dropped and had backed the batsman as a talent who the coach was being unable to handle well. Rana, too, hasn’t forgotten Gambhir’s mentoring and has often credited the India international for helping him settle down and improve his game.
Following his knock of 45 which helped Mumbai Indians beat Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rana not only credited Gambhir, but thanked Sachin Tendulkar and Mahela Jayawardene for clearing his mental mess after he was dropped from the Delhi team. “I was very disturbed mentally, (because) I had put myself under pressure by thinking too much. I was not able to play my natural game; I was not able to enjoy the game. After getting out couple of times I had gone into a shell. After coming here (Mumbai Indians), my mind became clearer,” Rana said after his knock.