Off-spinning all-rounders to fill the void left by Harbhajan Singh were the prime targets, followed by young Indian stars to build for the future. Andhra Pradesh’s M Harisankar Reddy and Hyderabad’s K Bhagath Varma made their way to CSK.
But a youngster from Tamil Nadu, which both CSK CEO Kasi Viswanathan and bowling coach Lakshimpathy Balaji had said was on the team’s agenda, was missing. With their final roster spot, CSK snapped up Tamil Nadu opener C Hari Nishaanth, who has been a fan of the team from a very young age.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Hari Nishaanth opened up about how a lifelong dream of his has been realized. He expressed abundant happiness at the chance to play alongside some of the greatest cricketers the world has ever seen, and spoke about how his loved ones reacted to the selection.
“I feel very good, I’m very excited for the future. I’m going to share a dressing room with so many legends. It’s obviously a great feeling. My family, friends and coaches were all excited. I was unsold in the first set of auction, so they saw both phases – disappointment and excitement.”
For Hari Nishaanth, sharing a dressing room with CSK’s superstars is a learning experience more than anything else. He explained that he wants to glean every bit of knowledge he can from them.
“I just want to learn everything from them. Preparation, how they approach matches, their intensity – I look forward to learning about all cricketing aspects. They are at the level they are because of their preparation.”
Amidst the Indian and overseas legends in the CSK dressing room, Hari Nishaanth has a familiar face to fall back on. Childhood friend N Jagadeesan made his debut for the team in last year’s IPL, and Hari Nishaanth has opened the batting with him right from age-group cricket.
“It’s definitely a great feeling. I used to interact with him (Jagadeesan) a lot last year, when he was already in the scheme of things. I can always talk to him and learn from him. It will be easy for me to approach everyone at CSK because he will be there.”
Hari Nishaanth then shed light on how he has been a CSK fanatic forever, having sketched the team’s players as a hobby. He emphatically claimed that every cricketer in India wants to play for the Men in Yellow, and not only those from Tamil Nadu.
“For whom will this not be a dream? Right from a young age, the whole of India wants to play for CSK, not only people from the south. I used to sketch CSK players, I was that crazy about the team. I was of the thinking that I’ll be happy if any team takes me, but this was so unexpected and I’m over the moon.”
Hari Nishaanth didn’t find a buyer in the first round of the auction, and it was only with their final pick that CSK brought him into the fold. The 24-year-old mentioned that although he believed he’d be shortlisted for the final round of the auction, he wasn’t entirely confident of finding a buyer.
“Kasi sir had mentioned that the team is looking for youngsters from Tamil Nadu. I had a ray of hope. M Siddharth had been sold, and Shahrukh Khan as well. I had hope that they’d take a left-hander, but it was only a mild hope. I had confidence that my name would come up in the second round after a good T20 tournament, that some team would have shortlisted me.”
Hari Nishaanth illustrated how nervous he was in the moment, and claimed it was unlike anything he had felt before.
“When I opened Hotstar, I saw Harbhajan Singh being sold. And when my name came, my hands were shaking. This had never happened to me before, but I was shivering. And then after I was picked, all I got were phone calls, for hours. I’m so happy.”
Hari Nishaanth jokingly said he had to open Instagram to confirm that he hadn’t dreamt it all up. He is currently part of the Tamil Nadu squad for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, and a practice session with the team helped the feeling sink in.
“For the first one hour, I didn’t even believe it. The feeling sunk in only after a practice session for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. I opened my Instagram and checked posts just to make sure I hadn’t dreamt it all up. Now it has sunk in quite well.”
The CSK squad features many world-class cricketers like Faf du Plessis, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir and Ravindra Jadeja. Hari Nishaanth has had three main cricketing inspirations, and two of them are part of the 3-time IPL champions.
When asked about the players he has looked up to over the years, the classy southpaw named 2011 World Cup Man of the Tournament Yuvraj Singh, apart from CSK skipper MS Dhoni and vice-captain Suresh Raina.
“Yuvraj Singh. Obviously everyone likes Dhoni, and Raina as well from childhood. I’m most excited about meeting Dhoni. In the past, I’ve texted my teammates asking about Dhoni. Now, since I myself am going to share a dressing room with him, deep down I’m very happy.”
From sketching CSK’s players, to asking teammates what it feels like to play with MS Dhoni, and then to finally sharing a dressing room with the former Indian captain, Hari Nishaanth has come a long way.
Hari Nishaanth will be keen on making an impact in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy and then joining his heroes at CSK.