But, little do fans know about the first stint of Kondappa Raj, CSK’s throwdown specialist for the 13th edition of IPL. Hailing from a humble background, Palani-born Kondappa has come a long way since learning the ropes in 2018. The 25-year-old was spotted by Super Kings performance analyst Lakshmi Narayanan during the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) 2019.
“Lakshmi sir knew that I was with Ruby Trichy Warriors for a few days, and was impressed with my work. In the early stages of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, he asked me to be ready for a CSK selection. In August, I had my trial, which was done under the supervision of Louis Mariano sir,” revealed Kondappa. “I was given a couple of challenging drills, but did my best. Louis sir was pleased with my effort and luckily, I got selected. I was with the team during its pre-season camp in Chennai as well as for the entirety of IPL 2020. Only in 2019, I had the opportunity to catch the CSK players live for the first time. And this year, I worked alongside them. It was a dream come true,” he said.
Kondappa stressed that the Super Kings players and support staff made life comfortable for him. Prior to his recent spell at threetime champion CSK, the youngster from Dindigul district had never worked full time for a T20 franchise.
“I only know the basics of English, so I found it a little difficult to communicate with the foreigners. However, opener Murali Vijay, bowling coach Lakshmipathy Balaji, analyst Lakshmi and team manager Russell Radhakrishnan helped me out,” he added. “All the CSK players were very kind to me. At times, I could not deliver the ball at the lengths they wanted, but they were patient and treated me like a friend.”
On how he felt while bowling to Super Kings captain MS Dhoni with the sidearm – a device used to release balls – Kondappa said: “One day, I was asked to bowl to Dhoni. Initially, I was nervous. But, I bowled at different lengths and speeds for about 45 minutes. He appreciated me once the session was over. What else does one want?”
Early in his career, Kondappa found it difficult to make ends meet. The former fast bowler was made captain of Sri Subramanya College of Engineering and Technology in 2015, thanks to the hard work he put while working under current DDCA secretary Venkatraman. Kondappa has not looked back since moving to Chennai two years ago.