New Delhi:Coming from the land of beaches - Goa, this small-in-size-yet-dynamic batsman has been the leading run-getter for his Ranji side. And as the inaugural Indian Premier League changed the lives of many young cricketers, his story is no different.
"IPL was a dream come true," says Swapnil Asnodkar, who proudly chose cricket over professional singing as his career and has no regrets whatsoever.
Once considered underdogs, the Rajasthan Royals picked him up for their squad. Hence, he has been lucky enough to get a coach-cum-captain like Shane Warne, who showed immense confidence in his young players. It was a gamble using an inexperienced player like Asnodkar high up in the order alongside South African batsman Graeme Smith, but the youngster proved his mettle and eventually became Warne's blue-eyed boy.
In an exclusive chat with CricketNDTV.com, Asnodkar talks about his dreams, his IPL experience, and like any other emerging Indian batsman, says his idol is none other than Sachin Tendulkar. Excerpts...
Congratulations on your team's recent win in the one-off British Asian Cup T20 match against Middlesex Panthers at Lord's. You played a crucial 41-run innings for the Royals. How was the experience?
It's a great feeling to be part of the Rajasthan Royals. Obviously, it was one of the best moments since the match was played at Lord's. Every cricketer dreams of playing there, and there are many who have played almost on every ground in the world but not at this elite venue. It means a lot to play there. It was fantastic!
On your IPL debut, you blasted 60 runs off 34 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders and the whole world noticed. How important was IPL for you?
It was a stepping-stone for me. I had been playing for so long and there were not many people who knew about me in spite of the fact that I was doing well in domestic cricket. IPL gave me the platform to get noticed and my batting skills got highlighted. Rajasthan Royals made it possible for me.
Shane Warne took a big gamble by sending you to open. What difference did it make to you as a cricketer?
It is his approach towards the game that makes a difference. He's the most dedicated player I have seen on the field. He always motivates every player before the match so that we give our best. I have been fortunate enough to play under him. It's a great feeling. I have grown watching Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara play. I had never even thought in my dreams that I would get an opportunity like this. It was one of my happiest moments to know that the legendary Shane Warne will be leading Rajasthan Royals.
In the first edition of the IPL, you scored 311 runs in 9 matches that included two fifties while in the 2009 edition, your batting stats were comparatively modest with just 98 runs from 8 matches as RR exited early from the League. What went wrong?
We didn't play good cricket and there's no point giving excuses. We didn't play according to the roles given to us. We won IPL's first edition and in this one we failed as a team, to end up way low in the points table. Speaking of my batting, there are certain aspects of it I am working on and I will make sure I improve and come out as a better batsman.
Which form of cricket is more important to you, Tests or ODIs? What about T20?
I don't discriminate any form of cricket and at the moment I'm enjoying the game in every way. Otherwise, in India particularly, every youngster dreams of becoming a successful Test cricketer and of course, wants to play for India. T20 matches and ODIs are also very important but Test cricket is the ultimate.
One bowler you would never want to face or if I may say so, the toughest bowler you have ever faced?
Umar Gul was hard to play in Indian Premier League first edition. I have played with most of the top-class international bowlers in IPL and I enjoyed a lot. And due to its short format, a bowler is given only 2-3 overs - making it difficult for a batsman to judge a bowler in that particular time period. I try to give my best efforts against every bowler.
Tell us something about yourself that your fans and the media don't know?
(Smiles) I think the media knows quite a lot about me by now, thanks to IPL. I don't think there's anything left to be told.
Talking about cheerleaders, did they distract you?
(Smiles again) No, not at all. They are there to distract the crowd, not the players. Their moves surely entertain people.
If Swapnil Asnodkar were not a cricketer, he would have been...
Either an engineer or a professional singer (smiles).
Sachin Tendulkar. I have not been lucky enough to spend much time with that great man. But I'm really looking forward to an opportunity to spend some wonderful time with him and I know a good conversation with the legendary batsman will inspire me more.
Your most memorable moment?
When I scored 254 (not out) against Railways in first-class cricket and also when I got a call to join the Rajasthan Royals.