Ever since Ricky Bhui walked into the Andhra team as a 17-year-old, he has had to deal with expectations. Coming from a state where only three players have donned the national colours so far, Bhui was touted as an India material from the outset. A century on his List A debut in the Vijay Hazare Trophy added to his growing status in Andhra. And almost 10 years since his debut, Bhui is at a stage of his career where he is still waiting for that one break-through season.
After blowing hot and cold over the last few seasons, the 26-year old Bhui seems to be getting there. On Tuesday, his unbeaten 115 runs powered Andhra to a strong position against Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. Asked to bat first, he walked in with Andhra on at 58/2 and three overs later as Hanuma Vihari retired hurt effectively leaving them three down, the onus was on Bhui to deliver. And in the company of Karan Shinde, Bhui thwarted Madhya Pradesh’s hopes of shutting Andhra to a low total as they ended Day 1 at 262/2.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs right from my Under-19 years. I’ve not got enough opportunities even in the IPL, and I have managed to have runs behind me in domestic cricket across formats. But every batsman will have that one break-through season where he hits a purple patch. I feel it is just around the corner, especially with the way my game is heading in the last couple of seasons. You need a season where you have to flourish and for that I need to keep improving,” Bhui told The Indian Express.
With many of his contemporaries (he was part of the 2014 U19 World Cup side which had Shreyas Iyer, Kuldeep Yadav, Sanju Samson, Avesh Khan, Deepak Hooda) in the national team and Sarfaraz Khan knocking the doors, Bhui knows he has plenty of work to do.
In a season where Andhra have managed to qualify for the knockouts from the toughest group, Bhui’s contributions have been vital. Coming into the tournament, Bhui had a good outing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well and has carried that form into the Ranji Trophy, scoring 576 runs so far including two centuries.
“It was a very important knock not just for me, but for the team as well, because we lost Vihari to injury and one of us had to put the hand up and deliver. It was crucial that I and Karan got a partnership and glad we were able to do that,” Bhui said.
With the team needing experience and balance, Bhui has also been forced to take up the wicketkeeping gloves in the last three matches. He is in fact the third wicketkeeper Andhra have had this season with KS Bharat busy with international commitments. Being one of the main batters and keeping wickets isn’t an easy job, but for now Bhui is enjoying it.
“I’d already kept wickets in the Duleep Trophy, so I was quite prepared for the role. Since that happened very early in the season, I had made my mind that at some stage I’ve to keep wickets and I got to be ready and when Bharat left, it was an opportunity for me to help the team,” Bhui said.
Although Vihari is around this season, for most part of his career Bhui has also had to tweak his game to suit the team’s demands. While he made a name for himself by being an aggressive batsman, Bhui has developed a different facet to his game – which is to bat long and construct an innings – keeping the team’s interest in mind.
“You need to do that and you got to be as versatile as possible. It has helped me improve my shot selection, now I know which ball to attack and which ball to defend. I started aggressively, but playing for a team like Andhra where they are depending on me in the middle-order, I can’t be aggressive and throw away my wicket. I’ve to take that pressure and it has held me back, but like I said it has helped me evolve as a batsman and the team is also benefiting from it.”