Interview with Sujit Nayak

SUJIT NAYAK is a motivated professional cricketer, currently playing in Mumbai's local league for THE CRICKET CLUB OF INDIA. Sujit has been playing cricket for last 12 years for different teams, clubs, regions and associations based in India.

He is an absolute team player and extremely passionate to win and do better. He has always been able to be the driving force in all the teams that he has been a part of and love to lead by example.

Please tell us how did Cricket become your Passion?

Ans: Cricket has always been in my family. My father having represented the country, has also been a stalwart for the Mumbai Ranji Team. I started playing cricket at a very young age but was never serious about it. I only got passionate towards the sport post my graduation and have never looked back since.

What were the biggest challenges on your way before taking up cricket professionally and how did you tackle them?

Ans: There were two very big hurdles when I actually took up the sport as my career, the first one was that I started off in the Mumbai circuit at the age of 20 and hence I was competing with players who have come up the ranks since the age of 10 and 12. Hence, I had to work really hard to change perceptions and be consistent enough to make sure that my skill and my performances were noticed. Secondly, I was morbidly obese when I decided to go in this direction. The importance of factors such as Nutrition, Fitness, Recovery were all foreign concepts for me. Understanding its importance in a sportsman’s life and inculcating them to ensure I excel on the field was a lifestyle change that I had to make.

What is the best thing about playing cricket?

 Ans: There are many things that this beautiful sport teaches you. Qualities such as teamwork, professionalism, discipline, independence, humbleness etc. It lets you travel and explore new places, meet new people, and form new relationships, both on and off the field. These factors play a major role off the field, in life. Cricket has given me everything that I have today and has made me the person that I am today. It teaches you things that you will always value and cherish in the long run as an individual.

What factors drive your consistent performance?

Ans:  I have always been a person who strives to defy the odds. As I mentioned, I was a late bloomer and hence there were a lot of perceptions that I had to change. Being consistent with respect to work ethics, performances and approach towards the game were the only things that could have changed that. I have come across many hurdles in my journey, whether it’s my consistency, my weight or other external factors which aren’t in my control, but my consistency is driven majorly because of the work that I put in behind the scenes. I am a firm believer of focusing and believing in my process. If that is in the right direction, things shall always fall in place.

Do share your experiences while playing Mumbai Ranji Trophy.

Ans: Donning the Mumbai Jersey is every Mumbai cricketer’s dream. That came true during the 2014 season where I made my debut for Mumbai in The Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy. However, that experience was short-lived, and I was dropped from the squad in the next season. Making a comeback 5 years later was one the best feelings that I have ever experienced in my life because the amount of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication that I had put in for 5 years had finally reaped me rewards. This journey has just begun, though as my goals now have changed and I would want to win Mumbai a trophy and get it back to where it belongs.

Which are the most common injuries you have come across as a cricketer?

I have had 2 major injuries at the most crucial time of my career.

 As a young budding cricketer, I was offered a contract with the Mumbai Indians in the year 2011 but a day before signing the contract I dislocated my shoulder and had to immediately undergo surgery. It took me a year to recover from that injury and make sure that I was fully fit and back on the field.

The second injury happened this year. I was in my best form, both, physically and mentally. I have been working hard the past 3 to 4 years now - Covering all aspects but unfortunately during a practice game just before The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy my right quadricep snapped. It was a near full thickness tear (5cms) in the rectus femoris along with my tendon snapping. It took me 3 months of intensive rehab and strength training to make sure that I cleared all my MCA fitness tests and get back on the field.

How was it playing for the Mumbai Indians team? How important is the role of Physiotherapy in T20 cricket?

From not playing cricket professionally to sharing the dressing room with the legends of the game is a feeling that cannot be described. This happened within three years will always be grateful to the Reliance One management team who gave me the opportunity to be a part of their franchise after consistently performing for them at the corporate level.

Thanks to Mumbai Indians and the IPL, I have gained a lot of knowledge, made new relationships that are still going strong. Watching senior statesmen and international cricketers go about their preparations and work on their skillset changed the way I used to think. It showed me the difference between an upcoming player and a well-established one.

Everyone at Mumbai Indians were extremely humble, giving, and passionate towards helping young players like me. Thanks to this experience, I understood what professional cricket was all about.

How do you cope with the mental pressure of being match fit all the time & keep the focus and concentration on the game?

Ans: I trust my process. My routines, training patterns, eating habits, recovery patterns are all in place and I follow them religiously. I keep communicating and talking to people - My seniors, and experts in their field to absorb as much as I can and implement what works for me and my body to make sure I excel on the field.

Physiotherapy has played an integral part in making sure where I am today.

What role has physiotherapy played in helping you manage your injuries and maintain your fitness levels?

I was fortunate enough to meet people like Patrick Farhat, Vaibhav Daga, Abhishek Sawant and many more amazing individuals who have not only helped and guided me on my road to recover from injuries at the earliest, but have also inculcated habits such mobility, recovery, and prehab routines in my daily life. They have made me understand its importance and guided me whenever I have reached out to them for advice.

Can you recall any specific incidence where you benefitted immensely after an intense physiotherapy session during a critical match or a tournament?

I remember one incident a couple of years ago when I was playing a game for Mumbai against Jharkhand. It was a crucial game for us in the super league and in the previous game due to my calf being tight my right ankle was creating a lot of issues. Abhishek worked his magic through his expertise in needling and taping techniques and made sure that I was fit for that game. Not only did I play and finish the game; we also bagged the 3 points that were needed.

Who are some of the physios you have worked with in your career?

I have worked with a lot of physios in my career. People like Patrick Farhat, Vaibhav Daga, Abhishek Sawant, Ashutosh Nimse, Niranjan Pandit, Saif Naqvi, Jimit Kapadia, Ronak Hosabettu, Saloni Karnawat are a few who have helped and guided me whenever I needed them.

What is your message to the young physiotherapists who wants to peruse sports physiotherapy as a career?

It’s a fabulous field to get into, especially with the way cricket has evolved and players now are so focused on these aspects when it comes to enhancing their on-field performances and off-the-field recovery patterns they are completely dependent on experts in domain such as Fitness Trainers and Physiotherapists. At the end of the day that’s why they call the team “Support Staff” because without them, no professional sportsman can reap continuous results and achieve excellency.




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