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When you talk about IPL power hitters, Chennai Super Kings opener Dwayne Smith’s name is sure to feature among the top three of that list. Apart from Glenn Maxwell and David Miller’s exploits, Smith has taken the IPL by storm, giving his side some big starts in the company of Brendon McCullum. It was no different against the Mumbai Indians on Saturday night, as Smith blazed his way to another half-century and set up the perfect platform for a successful run-chase.
Smith stitched a 63-run partnership with Faf du Plessis to stabilise the CSK innings, after the Men in Yellow were pegged back at 56 for two. While Smith rightly walked away with the Man of the Match award, du Plessis was kind enough to give us a peek into his partner’s unique batting manual. We at IPLT20.com quizzed the South African batsman about how it felt to watch Smith from the other end of the cricket pitch.
Here’s what du Plessis had to say:
A win for the side, but do you feel CSK were not at their dominating best tonight?
It was a hard-fought victory. It was not one of those victories where we smashed the guys all over the place. It was a greasy performance, but it was nice to see that we could win games like that as well. We have been doing really well with the opening pair blasting the bowlers away or while coming at the end and attacking the opposition. To win games like this really shows the team’s ability to win in different conditions.
You shared a 63-run partnership with Dwayne Smith. What kind of talks did you two have in the middle?
The wicket was slow and it was not easy for Smith to time the ball like he normally does, but he still managed to get runs for us. We just wanted to keep the scoreboard ticking and play good cricket shots and not try to hit the ball out of the park. But Smith is a power hitter and he always looks to go for the big shots, and it is nice for me to assist him in that and get him on strike as much as possible, which worked tonight.
Does he bat like this even in the nets?
(Smiles) He always plays like that. What is the secret behind his consistency?
He is in good form and in good touch, and he is making sure that he is using it to get runs on the board. It is easy to get a 20 or a 30 and then get out. But what he is doing at the moment is making runs when he is getting the opportunities, which is really important. You can never take these things for granted because a batsman quickly gets out and loses confidence, and it gets tough to get runs then. It is good to see him cashing on his good nick.
Is it just brute force or is there a lot of thought behind his batting?
There is thought behind his batting. He has got a really good shape when he hits the ball. He gets into really good positions and that is the reason why he is able to hit the ball so far and so consistently. As batsmen, there is a lot that we can learn when we see him bat. It is not just about power, but also the shape of the swing on that given night.
What is the one thing that you would want in your batting that Dwayne Smith already has?
I would want his strength. I am more of a timer of the ball when it comes to hitting sixes. With him, it is sheer strength and there is a lot of power that goes on that bat of his. I wish I could get his strength in my batting.
A half-century in the previous game and a 31 in this one; you are peaking at the right time after a silent start to this year’s IPL?
I am feeling confident at the moment, but it was tough for me in the beginning. I have been batting at the top for CSK, but it is a different role for me this year. We have a powerful opening pair and the batsmen below do not always get their opportunities. There have been times when I have walked out to bat and there are three or four overs left, which is not something I am used to. But I feel the more I play in this new role, the more I will get accustomed to it. I am glad I am getting better at my new role during the business end of the tournament, which is good for the team.
It has been two years since Praveen Kumar last bowled a delivery in international cricket. Since then, he has been marred by injuries and has missed out on crucial domestic fixtures, which has not helped his comeback. He received a jolt when he was overlooked during this year’s IPL Player Auction. However, a window of opportunity was all that Praveen Kumar needed. And as luck would have it, he was roped in by the Mumbai Indians to replace the injured Zaheer Khan.
On Saturday night, during his first game for MI, Kumar showcased some fine swing bowling, bagging two wickets in his quota of four overs. And his second over to Dwayne Smith was a visual treat, as he left one of Chennai Super Kings’ prime batsmen in a tizzy. Smith had just faced one of the best overs of the match that would have left any batsman clueless. Clearly, the swing is back and so is the man, who is keen to prove a point.
In this chat with IPLT20.com, we get up close and personal with Praveen Kumar who speaks about what motivates him and his return to the big stage in an MI jersey. Here are excerpts from his interview:
Back in action and back amongst the wickets – a good start to your IPL 2014 campaign.
First of all, I am just elated to be back in the IPL. It is a good feeling to come back at this level and showcase my skills. It is nice to show that I am completely fit and that I still have it in me to perform with the ball.
Injuries have left you out of the big stage for quite sometime. Were you nervous in a game that was a comeback of sorts?
I have been training hard and working out in phases. I trained a month back and went a bit easy on my body. It was my first match tonight and it did feel weird to play after a long time. That weird feeling faded off as I met the other players and went out to bowl in an electric atmosphere here at Wankhede Stadium. There was never a point tonight when I was nervous, and I am not usually nervous by nature. I absolutely enjoyed my bowling tonight.
Was there anything in particular that you wanted to focus on when you opened the bowling tonight?
Inswing comes natural to me and I can bowl it at any given point of time. My only focus was to swing the ball at the right line and length. I am happy that everything is falling into place slowly, and it never felt like I was playing after being out of action for a long time.
You spoke about being out of action. How disappointed were you when you were not picked during the IPL Player Auction?
Obviously, I was very disappointed when I was not picked in the Auction. It was a shocking moment for me. I was dejected for the first week-and-a-half, but started calming down as the days passed by. There came a point at that time when I actually stopped getting out of my house, thinking what people would talk about me and feared if they would ask me different kinds of questions. But slowly, I started getting out and all the negativity faded off. I was gutted that I hadn’t got a chance to play on a platform where I have been playing for so long.
What was the most motivating factor at that time?
My family kept me motivated. That was when I spent most of my time with my family, and they have backed me a lot during these hard times. How did you prepare yourself after you hit a low in your career?
I played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and a few corporate matches. My only motive was to get as much match practice as I can under my belt. I wanted to put in all my efforts and keep myself in sync with the game. I knew my shoulder, which had troubled me in the past, would only get better the more I bowl.
And then, you got a call from MI. Did you transform into a teenager who jumped with joy after hearing the news?
(Smiles) I was extremely happy when I got a call from Mumbai Indians to represent them in the IPL. I couldn’t sleep that night, and all of a sudden, I became a lot more positive. I have been playing international cricket for close to seven years now, and it was a great moment for me when I realised that I will be back in action.
Your second over to Dwayne Smith was a visual treat. Were you keeping a watch on him before joining MI?
I was watching the IPL matches at home. I was watching how Dwayne Smith was going about his batting and kept a tab on his weaknesses. I noticed that he was playing the inswinger well in all those matches and had difficulties playing the outswinger. It was strange that tonight he was playing the outswinger better and had problems playing the inswinger. I made him play a lot of inswingers tonight, and it worked for me.
How would you rate this performance?
I feel I could have bowled a lot better and conceded fewer runs. Now, it is back to the drawing board, and I will work on the things that I believe I should work on. Hopefully, I can take more wickets and give away fewer runs in the matches to come. Are you completely fit now?
I have always had injuries creeping into me all of a sudden. All my injuries – be it my shoulder, my elbow or my broken rib – have never been a problem that has persisted for a long time. They all came all of a sudden and happened by accident. Injuries are a part and parcel of being a bowler, and one needs to find ways to counter it and be fit at all times. Now, I am fit and raring to go.
It is still your initial period with MI. But how has it been so far?
I am thankful of the Mumbai Indians for supporting me and getting me back in the IPL fold. The players and the support staff are nice and generous. Now, it is time to go and perform for my team.