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Prajakta Pawar in Jaipur 14 April 2013 - 03:23pm IST

Mandeep Singh realises dream to bat alongside Adam Gilchrist

KXIP opener speaks about training round the year to perform on international platform

The ability to score freely and at a healthy strike rate is the keys for putting up a good performance, especially in the twenty20 format. Punjab’s Mandeep Singh has displayed those skills over the last few years, but by his own admission the youngster needs to work on converting his knocks into longer innings.

A keen student of the game, Mandeep has been sweating it out at the nets round the year to hone his skills. His ability to negotiate pace is also a reward for all the planned methodical training sessions against bowlers or bowling machines.

The Kings XI Punjab opener’s dream to play alongside one of his two all-time favourites was realised when he got the opportunity to bat alongside Captain Adam Gilchrist. The 21-year old realises that he has miles to go before he can don the India jersey but is working diligently towards that goal.

The cheerful KXIP opener was commended by his skipper who had told the media, “Mandeep played terrific knocks for us last year. He was a vital cog in the line-up. He has earned his place at the top of the order.” A modest youngster, Mandeep is working to imbibe the inputs from the captain and coach Darren Lehmann and hopes to better his performance.

While speaking to iplt20.com ahead of the match against Rajasthan Royals, Mandeep Singh elaborated how playing for KXIP alongside the likes of Gilchrist has helped him.

Excerpts from the interview:

With Gilchrist as one of your favourites, what does opening alongside him mean to you? What is the advice he gives you?

It is a dream come true. The way he motivates you especially during the match (is very helpful and encouraging). There is no pressure. He always advices to stay positive and play positively. I always wanted to bat with Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist and now I am batting with Gilchrist.

Has he spoken to you about shot selection?

Yes, he tells me to be choosier (about my shots) and wait and play to my strengths. Sometimes I play too early. Last year I scored a lot of 20s, 30s and 40s so he definitely wants me to convert those into bigger scores and then hopefully it will be possible to play for India sooner. And (it will happen) if I pay more attention on shot selection which he talks to me about in the nets as well. He speaks to me about my batting and how to utilise and work on my strong areas. Sometimes it happens that if you try playing outside your strong areas it leads to your down fall so he talks about working on all of that.

What are the inputs from Coach Lehmann for you and for the team?

He is one of the best coaches. And it is just the beginning of the tournament so there hasn’t been a lot of personal interaction yet but as a team and as group it has been good. Playing according to the plans is discussed. He gives specific inputs (which is helpful). And whether we win or lose it is more important whether we have played according to the plan or not.

You have had a good run in the domestic season, how has the training in IPL helped you while performing in the domestic circuit?

The season has been average not very good. When you face good bowlers in the nets like Ryan Harris, Praveen Kumar, bowlers of international stature that definitely increases your confidence. And if you perform against bowlers like that (of international stature) in the IPL, then it boosts the confidence even more. And if you remove the fear of failure from your mind then you will definitely be successful.

What are the adjustments that you have to make if at all, in terms of attacks that you face in the IPL?

It depends on against who you have played. I practice how to face international bowlers. for example if I have to face someone with the speed of 145-150 kph at the international level, then I practice accordingly so that when I go out there I don’t feel out of depth when I face them. I keep practicing on the bowling machine, with the rubber ball, plastic ball for facing speeds of 145/ 150/ 155 kph and with that the swing as well.
Luckily we have good spinners in India (so that area is also worked on). According to me you should practice accordingly throughout the year if you want to play and perform at the international level in cricket. 

How do you shape your innings? Do you subscribe to "see the ball hit the ball"? What is your approach?

It depends on the bowling attack you are facing. If the bowler you are facing is accurate you have to respect him (play him watchfully) and also the wicket matters. But generally the plan is to utilise the first six overs well because that is important. If you score 45/50/55 runs for the cost of one wicket then that kind of start is important especially in T20. But then the rest depends (on the circumstances), like if you are playing in Kolkata then the first six overs are even more important because then the spinners will be introduced into the attack and you will not get that many runs (opportunities to score easily).

What runs through your mind when you lose close contests?

Close matches don’t hurt all that much because in close matches everyone has put in an effort. Matches have close finishes when both the teams have played competitively. But if you lose like we did against CSK then it hurts more, feels that you have not played well.

Going ahead what is the next step for you?

Looking to play for India as soon as possible but I think I have to mature a lot. It is not that I can play with 20s and 30s, I have to play longer innings and not just in the IPL but also in India A and Ranji Trophy (and other domestic tournaments as well). I had an average last year.

Do you carry forward the confidence from your performances in domestic circuit into the IPL?

Because I keep working through the year I do have confidence. But I need to mature and play longer innings in all formats - T20 or longer formats. Once there is more maturity in my game I hope I will be able to play for India. 

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