The 24-year-old pacer made headlines recently when his efforts assured Kerala of a quarterfinal spot in the Ranji Trophy for the first time ever in history. However, this youngster has been performing for his side consistently. There was talk of him joining the Indian cricket squad for quite some time, but he says he was taken aback when he learnt of his selection.
“After my IPL stint, I knew it was only a matter of time before I made it to the national team … It’s every cricketer’s dream to don the blue team jersey … I thank god for giving me this opportunity, and what can I say? I was so surprised!” Thampi told TNM.
His entry into cricket could be considered late by Indian standards – he bowled with a proper cricket ball for the first time when he was 16 years old. But he has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 8 years.
“I started my cricket journey with tennis-ball matches, and later I played Under 17 matches. It was only after the Under 19 state championship that I began to take cricket more seriously.”
Currently, he is training with his state team for they are going to face Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals soon.
“The way the Kerala team is performing right now, I think we have a good chance of winning the competition … This team is not about individual performances; every single person contributes and the composition is great. I think this is the golden opportunity we were looking for and we will win this year.”
He trained under Glenn McGrath and M Senthilnathan at the MRF Pace Foundation, where world-class bowlers like Zaheer Khan and Mitchell Johnson have also trained.
“McGrath sir always said that with god’s blessing I have speed and I should never compromise that for swing … He always reiterated that every bowler is unique and speed is my forte.”
After bagging the coveted Emerging Player Award in the last IPL season, he attributes his confidence to the tutelage he received under McGrath and his seniors in the Gujarat Lions team.
“It’s because of the IPL that I’m playing in the Indian cricket team right now … That’s how people recognized me and that’s how my life changed. I will never forget the support offered by [Suresh] Raina bhai and the team management that let me play 12 out of 14 matches.”
Thampi’s deadly yorkers and slow balls would have never been possible if it wasn’t for the sage advice given by CM Deepak, his senior at Swanton’s Cricket Club in Ernakulam. He also thanked Tinu Yohanan, the first person to play for Team India from Kerala, for encouraging him when he lost his will play cricket.
“CM Deepak counselled me and sent me to Tinu Yohanan, who was at Chennai then … Our relationship stared that day … I think I’ve worked the most with him and he understands me … I love working with him,” said Thampi.
He is confident about the cricketing future of Kerala as they are upgrading their facilities and providing holistic coaching to youngsters.
“Kerala has lot of cricket grounds and we have a good management right now, there are a lot of youngsters training in these new academy and facilities … I think we have a lot of opportunities right now and we should convert them soon.”