It was a dream come true for wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat when he was presented with his Test debut ahead of the first Test against Australia at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur.
Bharat, who plays for Andhra in domestic cricket, got to make his Test debut alongside Suryakumar Yadav and was watched by his family as well as childhood coach J Krishna Rao when Cheteshwar Pujara gave him his cap.
Bharat had been the second keeper in the Test team and with Rishabh Pant out of action for an indefinite period due to injuries sustained in a horrific car accident on December 30, there was a slot open in the side.
He then got the nod ahead of Ishan Kishan to be India's wicketkeeper in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy opener at Nagpur. "It was a lot of joy to go back over the years from where it all started.
Coming all the way long here and watching my (Test) jersey. It's a very proud moment, lots of emotions. It is not just my dream, so many people have dreamt about me playing for India and doing well for India."
"So much of hard work behind me, a lot of support and strength over the years right from my teammates, my family, my wife, my parents, my friends, coaches. Without their support, it wouldn't have been quite possible for me to share this stage today.
I think a lot of credit goes to them for putting in all they had behind me and making me reach where I am today," he said in a video posted by the BCCI on their official website.
In 86 first-class matches before his Test debut, Bharat has made 4707 runs, averaging 37.95 and holds the distinction of being the first player to score a triple century in the Ranji Trophy as a wicketkeeper, apart from taking 296 catches and effecting 35 stumpings.
"When I started playing first class, I never thought of this day to be very honest. It was my coach, J Krishna Rao. Credit to him. He believed I had the potential right when I wasn't believing it."
"In U-19, he told me I had the potential to keep wickets for India. At that time, I felt, fine, that's a long way away. Who knows what's going to happen the next day? This is he talking about five six years from now," he added.
Bharat admitted there were times when he felt uncertain about being in the sport, but then he began to enjoy the uncertainty. "There was an element that I have the passion for the sport.
But whether I would make it to that level was still a question mark. But later, when we started working on my keeping, batting, when we started preparing for unknown challenges, it is when I enjoyed cricket more."
"For me to believe that I had potential to play for India, it took me four or five years of continuous performances. The first three years I had brilliant seasons, then I had a lean patch.
And when I had a lean patch and bounced back, it is when I felt I had some potential to make it big and not just first-class." Bharat signed off by acknowledging the impact of head coach Rahul Dravid when he made his India A debut on the tour of England in 2018.
"My journey has never skyrocketed. It has always consisted of small steps. I had conversations with Rahul sir during A tour in 2018 about how I can take my game to the next level."
"He never tried to change what I am made of, just told me that be the player you are and keep doing what I am doing. He told me to be the person I am and the player I am."