Mahesh Pithiya doesn’t mind the attention he is getting and his quiet and unassuming presence is certainly endearing.
One could easily miss him among the plethora of net bowlers who sweat it out at any touring team’s nets before the uncanny resemblance with Ravichandran Ashwin’s action surprises you.
He is only four first-class matches old but the Australian team has made him a travelling net bowler and he is lapping up every bit of attention he is getting.
“Maine pahle din hi Steve Smith ko 5 se 6 baar out kiya thaa nets mein (I had got Smith out at least six times in the nets on first day),” a smiling Mahesh told PTI as he stood in one corner watching his idol Ashwin go about his job in the nets.
Talk about Ashwin, the 21-year-old started beaming. Mahesh has generated curiosity among India players as well.
“Today I got blessings from my idol. I have always wanted to bowl like him. When I am met him as he was entering the nets, I touched his feet and sought his blessings. He hugged me and then asked what exactly am I bowling to the Australians,” he said.
“Virat Kohli also smiled at me and gestured thumbs up and wished me luck,” you couldn’t miss the pride in his voice.
He has just started his journey in senior cricket for Baroda and that is what is his focus at the moment.
“I have started my journey in Ranji Trophy and I want to focus on my red ball game. I want to cement my place in the Baroda side. I am not thinking about IPL now,” said Mahesh, who had worked in a tea stall few years ago.
So what exactly does he bowl? Does he have a carrom ball or a slider like Ashwin? “No, I don’t bowl carrom ball or doosra. My stock ball is off break and another ball that I have myself developed is one that has a bit of backspin in it. But I bowl that in white-ball cricket,” said the man who lives with his parents, elder brother and sister in law.
Bowling to Smith and Labuschagne has been a life changing experience for him.
“It has been amazing to work with this Australian side. My job is to mainly bowl to Steve Smith at Australia nets. He didn’t ask me to bowl anything specific.” Mahesh feels lucky that he is able to interact a lot with Nathan Lyon who has given him some invaluable tips on the art of off spin.
“Lyon first asked me to show my grip and explain what I do while rolling my fingers. He then explained how I can get more revs (rotation) on the ball and also how my front leg (left) should land. He told me to have confidence in my ability.” The Australian team be using Mahesh’s services till the start of the second Test in Delhi.
“I am there with the team till February 17. It has been a life changer for me,” said the young man.