Editor's Note: As the anticipation for IPL 2020 gathers steam, a bunch of cricketers recall their IPL debuts for our latest series, My First IPL Match. Over the next few days, you'll read tales of unexpected joy and nervous expectations from these sportsmen. Some of these interviews were published earlier this year; they are being republished as we build towards the marquee event.
The first ever Indian Premier League (IPL) match is mostly remembered for Brendon McCullum's blistering knock. Batting for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as an opener, McCullum launched an assault of the highest intensity against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) bowlers, smashing them all over the Chinnaswamy Stadium to score an unbeaten 158 off 73 balls including 10 fours and 13 sixes.
It was a kind of knock that was bound to have an impact on players of both the teams. This was 2008, players were relatively new to the newest format of the game and they had not seen this type of innings. 158 not out in a 20-over match? Mind-blowing. Crazy. Unreal. Ashok Dinda, the young pacer in KKR's ranks was also stunned by his teammate's knock, but there was a tinge of fear running through his mind. He was supposed to open the bowling for KKR and if RCB bowlers – the likes of Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar,and Jacques Kallis got that kind of beating, it could also happen to Dinda, who had never played a game in front of such a huge crowd.
"I remember entering the field and seeing a packed crowd in the stadium. I had never played in front of so many people. My heartbeat increased after watching the crowd, my legs started shaking. There was the opening ceremony and all that, and I felt that time was running extremely slow," Dinda recalled that day to Firstpost.
"I saw that McCullum's innings and thought what will happen to me once I start bowling. When we went out to field in the second innings, I was very nervous. I got the new ball and it was only after the first ball that my nerves settled down. After the first ball, my focus was completely on the match. The noise of the crowd and all such things didn't matter to me. I saw the batsman in front of me and concentrated on my bowling," Dinda said.
Chasing a massive 223, RCB collapsed in mere 15.1 overs, losing all ten wickets for just 82 runs. Dinda played his part in the second innings, bowling three overs, conceding only nine runs and picking up two wickets. "I clearly remember my wickets," Dinda tells in a tone that resembles pride. "I bowled Virat Kohli and then Ricky Ponting took a catch to remove Wasim Jaffer."
Twelve years have passed since that eventful night of 18 April, 2008. Dinda says 'the match' became a turning point in his life and he justifies that statement.
Before the tournament, Dinda entered the KKR setup as a net bowler. By that time, he was already a first class player for his state team Bengal. He didn't possess much of T20 experience so the prospect of finding a place in an IPL team was not an easy one. His place in the KKR squad was not guaranteed till the last moment, in fact he got the news just before the team boarded the flight to Bengaluru.
"Mera life ka woh turning point tha (The match was a turning point in my life). I was a net bowler in KKR. Shoaib Akhtar was supposed to join the team but he couldn't make it. The team management realised that they need an Indian fast bowler. Dadi (Sourav Ganguly, KKR captain as he was affectionately called by the teammates) saw me bowling in the nets and started talking to me. He told me to take these practice sessions seriously. He asked me to give my best even in the nets. I played a few practice matches at the Eden and performed really well so everyone was impressed. I was eagerly waiting for the news of my selection but it didn't come for a long time.
"One day, when I was playing a corporate match, I got a call from KKR team director Joy Bhattacharya. He told me to report to the hotel immediately. I still did not get the official news but I knew the very next day the team was flying to Bangalore for the opening match. As I entered the hotel, they directed me to a room. I still remember the room number – 1001. I went inside and saw Shah Rukh Khan, the team owner was sitting along with other cricketers. John Buchanan was talking at the meeting. After the meeting, Buchanan announced the team and there it was. I saw my name, No 11 Ashok Dinda.
"Meh khush tha but mera aur bhi tension badne laga. (I was happy but at the same time tensed too)," Dinda says with a fit of laughter.
Sourav Ganguly, the former Indian captain and current BCCI president played a pivotal role in shaping the careers of many talented youngsters. At the international level, he encouraged and gave confidence to the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag and he played a similar role with Dinda.
"He (Sourav) helped me a lot. He told me that he will give me the new ball to open the bowling. He advised me to be mentally prepared and not to take the pressure. But of course, there was pressure till the first ball."
Throughout the tournament, Dinda got immense support from the coaches and international stars as well. He remembers how Australian legend Ponting called him a 'champ' while coach Buchanan had complete faith in his ability. Dinda's unique action – the big jump into his delivery stride – became a talking point but the coaches in the KKR ranks did not tamper with it. "No one in KKR setup told me to change my action," Dinda said.
After clinching the victory against RCB, Dinda and his teammates met again in the night for a party. Initially, Dinda stood in the corner, but it didn't take him long to drop his inhibition and become the center of attraction. "Wriddhiman Saha and I were standing in the corner. Laxmi Ratan Shukla, my teammate pushed me to the dance floor and then I had a blast."
Dinda maintained his form throughout the tournament, picking up nine wickets in 13 matches at an economy of 6.66. The IPL experience helped him in a big way in his first-class career and a year later, he made his T20 debut for India, against Sri Lanka.
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