Stress fractures of the back, recovery, a delivery that clocked 153.4 KMPH, signing up for Delhi Daredevils, the Emerging Tour and now the Indian squad — Varun Aaron has had two interesting seasons that have put him on the fast-track to international cricket.
The 21-year-old didn't get a chance to play the England ODIs, but had experts like Wasim Akram and Sourav Ganguly arguing for his place in the Indian side. Aaron hopes he'll break into the XI soon despite stiff competition.
Excerpts from his chat with Yahoo! Cricket today:
Talk a bit about your growing-up days.
When I was about 8-9, I slowly started with school cricket. Then I played for the Jharkhand U-15. And then on to the U-17 team and then for the Indian U-19 probables. There were no U-19 tours at the time. In 2005, I got selected for Pace Foundation and I was shortlisted for their finals. It's been great there since I joined them at a small age. Early on I learnt the importance of training and the mechanics of my action.
What's your family like and what's their attitude towards your cricket?
My parents and my grandparents have been really supportive. My dad was a club cricketer. My mom played basketball for Bihar and for Karnataka colleges. And my grand-dad played hockey for Bihar. They were excited when I broke into the U-15 team. It's a sporting family, so they've been excited and supportive. I also have a sister, currently in Standard 10.
When was the first time you realized you could bowl fast?
It was when I got into the MRF Pace Foundation that I realised I had something in me. TA Sekhar was the coach. He said, "You have got it in you, but you need to work hard." Getting into the academy gave me self belief. It gave me the mental assurance that I could do it.
Did you terrorise local teams? Did you injure any batsman?
I was fairly quick even during my U-15 days. There's one batsman... Samrat, from Tripura... I don't know where he is now... I have hit him on several parts of his body but never got him out. I broke his finger once, and then I caused damage to his thigh. Then I cut him under the eye. But I could never get him out.
You had a major injury early in your career. What adjustments did you make after it?
I made a few adjustments, but my action was decent. It remains the same through a season. I have worked on my fitness. When you're young, you try to bowl fast, and sometimes your body can't take it. That is why I had stress fractures of the back. I took it in a positive way.
I have worked on my fitness. I spent time at the NCA where experts like Paul Chapman, Paul Close and VP Sudarshan trained me. I worked hard under them, fine-tuning my physique and learning how to manage my workload.
In what ways have Dennis Lillee and the Pace Foundation helped you?
Lillee speaks to me even now. He keeps talking to me about the mental aspect of fast bowling. He talks about how to set up a batsman, how to set fields. He's one of the best bowling coaches in the world. (Former MRF chief coach) TA Sekhar is excellent in technique. I speak to him about technical problems. There's also (current chief coach) M Senthilnathan.
The IPL stint, the fastest ball recorded by an Indian, the Emerging Tour, and now the Indian team - do you think it's all happening too fast, or is it well earned?
I feel I've earned my place playing the IPL, the Emerging Tour. And there were injuries to Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma too (which meant that) I got my chance to be in the team. So I feel I've earned it.
Has life changed in some way since you dismissed Adam Gilchrist in that IPL game?
For me, life hasn't changed much. It's all in the press. My attitude to the game is the same; I'm working as hard if not harder. The talk of change is just on the outside. What I was one and a half years ago, I am the same.
There are tonnes of people, including Sourav Ganguly and Wasim Akram, saying you should have played in the England series. What does that support mean to you?
It does mean a lot. I'm looking forward to play for India. At the end of the day, it's up to the management to play me or not. I don't have regrets not playing there. They have their reasons. In the coming seasons, I hope I get to play.
Between playing competitive cricket somewhere and been on the Indian bench, what would you chose?
It's obvious I'll chose to be with the Indian team.
Were you given any reasons for not getting a game in England?
I didn't. I don't know. I haven't spoken to them about it.
Overall, how would you describe your time spent in the UK?
It was good. It gave me a good insight into the dressing room. Being with people like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar was great. Being there helped me a lot.
Your performance on the Emerging Tour kept you in the attention of selectors. What was your experience in Australia like?
We had a great team going to Australia, a great coach, great support staff. I knew most of them since I've worked with them at the NCA. But the wickets there were not fast and bouncy, they were normal, more like Indian wickets with a little extra pace. And the Kookaburra ball doesn't move that much. So the tour taught me how to bowl on dull, flat decks in foreign conditions.
You have bowled alongside Umesh Yadav and you two are the fastest in India. What is it like between you two? Do you get along? Do you see each other as rivals?
He's also my Delhi Daredevils team-mate. I don't look at him, or for that matter any bowler, as a rival. I compete with myself. Umesh and I are good friends on and off the field. I don't see any rivalry between us.
Finally, in a country where pace bowlers quickly become slow, what does bowling fast mean to you?
It means a lot to me. It comes naturally to me, and I am trying to keep it going.