Uttarakhand fast bowler Deepak Dhapola has made it a habit of producing eye-catching performances. Right from his debut for the state during the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy season to the ongoing campaign, Deepak has proven to be a reliable wicket-taking bowler who uses the new ball to inflict damage thanks to his ability to generate swing and consistently pitch the ball in the right areas.
Deepak dreamt of playing professional cricket for Delhi but after waiting in the wings for several years and not getting a chance, Deepak decided it was time to move on. He switched to Uttarakhand and on debut, produced a breath-taking show in Dehradun, running through the Bihar batting line-up to finish with a match haul of 9/61 in a 10-wicket win for which he won the player-of-the-match award.
He would finish the season with 45 wickets from 8 games at an average of 15.51.
Cut to the ongoing Ranji Trophy campaign and Deepak has again hit the headlines. This time for taking hat-tricks in consecutive matches. His first hat-trick came against Puducherry in Dehradun and the next against Delhi in Mohali.
Uttarakhand are currently taking on Delhi in their fourth match of the Elite Group D of Ranji Trophy 2023-24 at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, a contest that got underway on Friday. After taking a first-innings lead of 92 runs, Uttarakhand left Delhi stunned by reducing them to 11/5 inside five overs in their second dig on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Deepak inflicted the maximum damage as he started the demolition job of Delhi’s batting order with the sixth delivery of their second innings itself, getting rid of opener Arpit Rana for a six-ball duck. He then took two wickets off the first two deliveries of his next over including the scalps of Yash Dhull and Kshitiz Sharma to complete his hat-trick.
Speaking to News18 CricketNext after finishing Day 2 with figures of 4/43 from 11 overs, which also helped him complete 100 wickets in first-class cricket, Deepak said the plan was to exploit the helpful pitch before it got better for batting.
“The pitch was behaving quite well in the afternoon and we had to make use of the new ball. Eventually, it got better (for batting). In Mohali, the pitch on the first day gives a lot of help (to the bowlers) and it keeps settling as the game progresses. So our plan was to keep the new ball in the right areas and keep creating chances. So I ended up doing that and got the wickets,” Deepak said from Mohali.
Deepak initially trained with and started playing professionally under the guidance of former Delhi cricketer and coach Rajkumar Sharma, famous for being the childhood coach of Indian batting superstar Virat Kohli.
“I started playing professional cricket under him (Rajkumar),” Deepak said. “I played cricket in Delhi for nearly 10-12 years. I was in the standbys, I even played in Calcutta (for some time). I kept taking wickets but didn’t get a chance (for the state teams). So I decided to move to Uttarakhand. By god’s grace and hard work, I have been taking wickets (regularly).”
Having started his FC career with a memorable debut and a season full of wickets, the journey ahead for Deepak proved challenging. He spent the major part of the next two seasons on the sidelines, recovering from a knee and then a back injury.
Deepak credited Cricket Association of Uttarakhand (CAU) secretary Mahim Verma for backing him during the testing time.
“For two years I was injured (2019-20 and 2020-21). And coming back from those injuries was quite a challenge. Mahim Verma sir supported me a lot during that phase and I was able to make a successful comeback thanks to him,” he said.
“Obviously, because of the stiff competition, making a comeback to a state team is always a big challenge. Once you disappear from the scene, you get sidelined and so winning your place back becomes difficult. Mahim sir did back me a lot,” he added.
He also mentioned the role of Abhimanyu Cricket Academy, run by RP Easwaran – the father of Bengal cricketer Abhimanyu Easwaran – for providing him the support that helped his recovery.
“I was in Abhimanyu Cricket Academy during that time. Easwaran sir, coach Manoj Rawat sir, they all supported me. The academy is well equipped and so I used to practice there during that phase,” Deepak said.
Deepak geared up for the ongoing season by playing club cricket for Durham City in England. “From April to September, I had signed a contract with Durham City in England. I was in England during the off-season. I played for a club called Durham City there. It gets hot here, so I trained with them, and played a few games for them. Actually, it rained a lot so most of our matches got washed out,” he said.
Uttarakhand cricketers are being noticed by the IPL scouts with Akash Madhwal being the most prominent name to have emerged from the team having tasted success while playing for Mumbai Indians last season.
Is Deepak also dreaming of landing an IPL contract someday? “See, I have focused only on playing good cricket and if god has it in store for me, it will happen,” he replies.
“I am in a competition with myself to get better day by day. I have a lot of confidence in myself. The faith from teammates and coaches helps. When people have expectations from you then you get even more motivated to work on them,” he added.
Has the thought of ever giving Delhi another crack crossed his mind? “No, not at all. I am doing great with Uttarakhand and my dream is to win a trophy with them. We are all working hard to achieve that,” Deepak said.