“If you know you are good enough, then why would you quit?”
For many, those 12 words could be interpreted in many different ways. For Counter Logic Gaming top laner Niship “Dhokla” Doshi, League Championship Series AD Carry Lawrence “Lost” Sze Yuy Hui told him this, and it ignited a motto in his mind that stuck with him throughout the ups and downs of his career.
CLG’s 25-year-old top laner has endured a career path like no other. This is his comeback story from initially reaching the LCS stage to making it back years later as a reinvented player.
First LCS stint with OpTic Gaming
Just a few months after joining OpTic Gaming Academy ahead of the LCS Academy 2018 spring split, Dhokla had been told he was promoted to the starting lineup of the LCS team. At the time, it was a mix of excitement and anxious feelings going into his first set of games as an LCS top laner.
“It was surprising at first, I didn’t think I was ready at the time looking back at everything. I don’t think I was ready to compete at the top level, but I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to play in LCS,” Dhokla said.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Dhokla held his spot as the starting top laner for OpTic. Although he was happy to be there, there was always a feeling in the back of his mind that he “didn’t belong” or wasn’t ready to be there.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“I don’t think I was good enough individually on a mechanical and mentality level,” Dhokla said. “It was a lot to learn in both areas. I needed to improve very quickly if I wanted to stay in the LCS, but I don’t think I did a good job with that.”
Mechanically, he felt outmatched by the LCS top lane titans, and mentally, every loss impacted his confidence in his skills. By the end of the LCS 2019 summer split playoffs, Dhokla went into the 2020 offseason ready to make improvements, whether it be as an LCS top laner or back in Academy.
“After I came out of the LCS, I thought about how I needed to improve a lot more if I want to make it back to the LCS,” Dhokla said. “I didn’t view going back down to Academy as negative because I saw it as a good opportunity for me to get better at the time.”
From amateur back to the LCS
After dropping from the LCS, Dhokla became the starting top laner for TSM Academy throughout the 2020 season but was ultimately dropped at the end of the season.
It was an abrupt wake-up to how low his playing level could get. In his mind, dropping out of Academy was never even a thought -- it was the minimum for what he felt his level of play could be. He remembered the “anger” he had at the moment about reaching a new low in his career that he never felt was even possible. However, instead of being angry at the situation, he used that angry energy as motivation to prove people wrong.
“I used that anger as a motivation because I wanted to prove to everybody that I could make it back,” Dhokla shared. “I wanted to prove to everyone who overlooked me as a player that I can bring so much more than what I showed on OpTic.”
He remembered the story of the Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, who went from being undrafted to an NBA All-Star. Despite basketball and League of Legends being vastly different, the “comeback kid” story resonated with Dhokla. The biggest takeaway being that it was possible to reinvent yourself as a player and become great.
For Dhokla, dropping down to amateur was no longer a roadblock that took over his mind. Instead, it became a mission to reach his goal of making it back to the LCS, reinvented as both a player and a person.
From that point on, he adopted a different mindset in amateur with Wildcard Red before getting picked up by Team Liquid Academy to close out 2021. However, the major changes in his play didn’t come until the offseason before the 2022 season. It was a time when Dhokla feels he grew a lot as a player, and he set an important goal for himself.
“I told myself, I would only play Academy one more year with CLG Academy and if I didn’t make it back to the LCS by the start of 2023, I would retire,” Dhokla said. “That’s a goal I set for myself and I didn’t want to let myself down. I just really worked hard and stuck to my schedule every day.”
The intense work ethic and regimen were evident by the 197 total games played throughout Split 2 of Champions Queue, the most of any player. The strict regimen of multiple Champions Queue games -- one after the other -- paid off with a strong first-place finish in the LCS 2022 Academy spring split with a 23-13 game record.
“It forced me to reflect on my situation about what I wanted to do,” Dhokla said when talking about how his goal impacted his accelerated growth. “Playing in Academy no longer seemed fulfilling. Even if I was playing better, I just didn’t want to keep progressing that way. I wanted to compete at the highest level, and that was what motivated me the most to play as many games as I did.”
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games via ESPAT
The improvements both in the mental and mechanical aspects of his game finally made an impression as he was promoted to be CLG’s starting top laner for the LCS 2022 summer split.
It was all worth it hearing the chants of the crowd and feeling the atmosphere he had missed out on for nearly two-and-a-half years. He remembered the feeling of muffled cheers going through his noise-canceling headsets. The CLG chants vibrating the stadium after every outplay and tower take. These are the moments that motivated him to spend countless hours practicing.
“The next goal of mine is to play on a stage inside a stadium. I want to go to playoffs and play in front of a crowd,” Dhokla shared. “It’s the biggest motivator for sure.”
After their close 2-3 series loss to Cloud9 in the playoffs, CLG have been dropped down to the lower bracket, where they will take on Golden Guardians on Friday at 4 p.m. ET. CLG will need to beat Golden Guardians and win two more series after that in order to play inside a stadium at the LCS Finals and qualify for the 2022 world championship, which is taking place in North America in October.
“It’s been a long journey for me to get back to the LCS and I’m really happy to be where I am right now,” Dhokla said before acknowledging his supporters. “Thank you to everyone for supporting and looking forward to doing our best to make all CLG fans proud.”
Lead photo credit: Nick Geracie