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He greets you with a genial smile and gets a little shy when talking about the greats of the game he’s sharing the dressing room with. But ask Thisara Perera about his own game and he exudes confidence reminiscing of someone like a Virender Sehwag. Lines like, “I never take pressure about anything in my life” and “Be it Tests, ODIs or T20s, I never change my style” tell you that.
The 24-year-old all-rounder from Sri Lanka is also capable of whacking the ball a mile. In the three matches he’s played in IPL 2013 so far, he already has scores of 30 (off 18 balls) and 40 (off 24 balls) – the latter coming in an away fixture against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
While his pyrotechnics couldn’t win the game for the Sunrisers, Perera has emerged as a key member of the team. Perera was part of Chennai Super Kings, Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Mumbai Indians in the last three years respectively but played a grand total of seven games for them.
This year he’s happy to be in a team where he gets to be part of the on-field action. “Here there are not many overseas players around and that boosts my chances of making the Playing XI,” Perera told iplt20.com.
“I need to be there on the field and don’t want to just warm the bench. I want to work hard in the nets knowing that I’ll be required to perform in the match. So, I’m very happy to join this team.
“I wasn’t following the auction since there was no live telecast in Sri Lanka. But my manager told me that I was going to go for huge money. I’m really happy to come join the Hyderabad team,” Perera, said when asked what it felt like when after a vigorous bid in the 2013 IPL Player Auction, SRH shelled out USD 650,000 for him.
While the Sri Lankan has been making headlines with his shot-making in this IPL, he started out as a pace bowler who could use the long handle to good effect. But for SRH, Perera bats at No.5 and he is glad to have worked hard on his batting.
“I was a bowler who could hit some big shots in the lower order. But then I decided to take my batting seriously and work hard on it. I never quite thought that I want to be labelled as an all-rounder but I always liked to play big shots.
“I think my stroke-making is the biggest reason why I’m here sitting in this dressing room right now. Since I can contribute with ball, bat and in the field, the teams think of me as a genuine all-rounder,” he said.
When asked whether his nippy bowling and attacking batting makes him best suited for the shortest format, Perera said nonchalantly, “I don’t know about that but be it Tests, ODIs or T20s, I never change my style. I like to bat the way I do best.”
The conversation eventually veered to the breathtaking Super Over finish between these very teams when they played in Hyderabad. Perera was out there batting along with Cameron White. And while the other players, viewers and those in the dugouts bit their nails out of tension, Perera wondered what all the fuss was about anyway.
“I batted in a super over against New Zealand in the last World Twenty20 and I scored nine runs in three balls. So, in the last match there was no pressure on me because I’d been in that situation before. Honestly, there’s nothing to be excited or serious about it. Super over is just another part of the match. I never take pressure in my life about anything,” said the cool cricketer.
Despite his batting exploits, Perera believes he is still primarily a bowler and knows he cannot afford to lose focus from that aspect of his game. And as long as he’s in the Sunrisers’ change room, he won’t. Certainly not with the likes of Waqar Younis (SRH’s bowling coach) and Dale Steyn around.
“Waqar Younis is doing a great job with us as a coach,” Perera said, sharing the most important thing he’s learning from one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time.
“He tells us a lot of how to bowl in death overs in T20s. He says you shouldn’t talk a lot between overs in the last few overs and make too many adjustments in the field. You just stick to your plans. We practice death overs bowling in every practice session and bowl with new and old ball.”
The young man has also made a note of what he wants to pick from currently the world’s number one fast bowler. “Dale Steyn is a very friendly man and I enjoy my time with him. I want to improve my back-of-a-length delivery and I want to learn that from Steyn.”
Jharkhand pacer Rahul Shukla was over the moon when he claimed the wicket of Jacques Kallis in his second game for the Rajasthan Royals. The wicket was a crucial breakthrough and helped the fight back and was also a personal triumph for the young pacer to be able to pocket the scalp of one of the best batsman in the world.
Defending 144 runs, the youngster dealt a double blow in the third over of the Kolkata Knight Riders innings after they had got off to a flying start. The pacer castled Manvinder Bisla and a ball later sent back Kallis, caught behind, to give his team a chance to fight back.
His fellow pacers then picked wickets at regular intervals and did not let the opposition recover and ensured a victory for the Rajasthan Royals in their first home game of the season.
Shukla who has been in good form in domestic cricket, came into the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 and has turned out to be one of the key wicket-takers for his team. Encouraged by his captain Rahul Dravid and senior fellow pacers S Sreesanth and Shaun Tait the youngster now has two big scalps against his name from two games – Mahela Jaywardene (in the first game) and Kallis.
An overjoyed Shukla spoke to iplt20.com briefly after the win about the match and his scalps.
Excerpts from the brief post-match interview:
On Kallis’ wicket being a memorable moment for him?
In the first match that I played against Delhi Daredevils I was very nervous but I got the wicket of Mahela Jaywardene and then today I got Kallis out and it has given me tremendous confidence.
On his celebration after sending back Kallis and whether he had planned for the dismissal?
No, there was no planning. Kallis is my favourite batsman and taking his wicket was a big moment and I am very happy. I was to bowl at his body and fast and that is what I did and it worked.
On what was the plan when he was introduced into the attack especially since KKR had scored 18 of the first two overs?
Our planning was not to give width to the batsman. The wicket was fast (had pace in it) and if you give width to the batsman, the delivery could go for a boundary. So I bowled to Bisla, fast and on the stumps and that uprooted his stumps and then I fumbled and fell (on the next ball) and the next one again I bowled fast (and got wicket). So the plan was not to give width to the batsman.
On the pace attack getting purchase out of the wicket for RR?
They had Brett Lee but we had Shaun Tait, S Sreesanth and me and then we also had Kevon Cooper and Siddharth Trivedi. We had a good pace attack and we had worked on it and executed it well.
On Brad Hodge playing a crucial innings?
Yes there was Brad Hodge’s innings and also Dishant Yagnik hit Sunil Narine for runs. He made quick 16 runs and that helped too.
On Siddharth Trivedi following up with quick wickets after him?
That made a lot of difference. Even after I took two wickets there run rate was good. They were scoring runs. But he didn’t concede runs and also took wickets which put pressure on them and they lost wickets.
On Eoin Morgan’s capitalising on the half-chance that he survived early on and whether that mounted pressure on the Royals as he kept KKR in the game?
It was a tough catch to hold on to and Watson tried, you can’t do much about that. Yes there was a bit of pressure later on. When I bowled to him he hit me through the covers and he hit me for a six too. So then I bowled a slower one to him. He was bringing it close and but then once he got out the match was ours.
On Kevon Cooper’s spell and finishing the game for RR once again?
Yes, he is really good.
On learning and advice by Shaun Tait?
Sreesanth and Tait have been very helpful. They have been encouraging and boosting my confidence. While bowling in a match having confidence is very important. They help me a lot.
On advise by skipper Rahul Dravid?
He is my favourite batsman and a very good person and he has also been helping me a lot and encouraging me. He tells me I am good player and that certainly boosts my confidence.
What do you think is your strength?
I bowl good Yorkers, slower ones. With the new ball I use pace and bowl fast and then in the slog I can bowl the slower ones.
On whether he considers pace being his strength and what he focuses on?
It depends on the situation of the match. Today when I bowled fast I gave away runs so then shifted to bowling slower deliveries. Having variety in your bowling is important while playing twenty20 matches.
On his preparation leading up to the IPL?
Yes I did prepare, worked on slower and back-hand slower, Yorker. I played twenty20 for the state team in domestic tournament and did well (it has helped). It is important that I do well.