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To open the batting and score a quick-fire 30, and then, to open the bowling as well and claim two for 20 in your first match for your new team is nothing short of impressive. Playing for Rajasthan Royals in Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014, Ankit Sharma put up the aforementioned all-round performance, but he was unfortunate to end up on the losing side in the closely-contested game against CSK at Ranchi. The 23-year-old is yet another uncapped player to come out of the RR stables and perform on the big stage.
Speaking to IPLT20.com after the game, Ankit said that he was told by Shane Watson the previous evening that he would be playing the match against the Chennai Super Kings. The left-hander also said, “Rahul sir (Dravid), Monty sir (Desai) and Zubin sir (Bharucha) had told me that they were planning something like this; so it was a good outing for me.”
To debut for a franchise towards business end of the tournament, and that too against one of the strongest teams, would have put additional pressure on a youngster. However, Ankit said that he was ready for the challenge. “I was prepared because the coaches had already spoken to me about what line and length to bowl. We also watch a lot of videos, so you get a good idea of what needs to be done.”
Speaking about his contribution in the game, he said, “My performance was good. The support staff had helped and everything worked out well for me. The line and length was good while bowling, and my batting was good too.”
Ankit has been seen more as a bowler in the domestic circuit. However, he also has three half-centuries in first-class cricket and considers himself an all-rounder. Speaking about his batting, Ankit said, “I have been batting. I bat lower down the order in domestic cricket. I do look at myself as an all-rounder, but also the way the think tank had made me practice was very good. And because of that I have been able to perform today.”
When asked about the target RR were looking to set CSK, given the opposition’s strong line-up, he said, “We had decided to take the measure of the wicket for the first couple of overs. Then Watson, who was batting with me, said that now we can try and go for runs. And we were looking to get the team off to a good start.”
Speaking about batting with Watson, Ankit, who was involved in a 60-run opening stand with him, said, “I liked batting with him. I was batting with a batsman of Watson’s stature, and opening with him. So it felt really good.” The first-time IPL opener, who was visibly enjoying his batting and was encouraged by his captain, said that he practices his regular shots in the nets while preparing for different situations.
After helping RR lay a solid foundation with the bat, he gave his team vital breakthroughs with the wickets of Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina. “It was good to get a wicket up front. The team needed that,” he said while speaking about his performance with the ball.
‘Calm’ and ‘simple’ are the two elements that have helped Mohit Sharma succeed during his stint with the Chennai Super Kings in the Pepsi IPL. The medium-pacer says that his skipper, MS Dhoni’s, calmness helps the rest of the pack stay unruffled under pressure situations and perform.
The match against the Rajasthan Royals in Ranchi was another such example where the pacer held his nerve after being taken for a few runs. Struck for two boundaries in his first over, Mohit came back to beat Shane Watson. And while he was then hit for a six, heeding to his captain’s advice, Mohit claimed Watson off the very next ball.
The bowler with a sunny disposition keeps things simple. His mantra is to work and practice what he knows, what has worked for him, listen to Dhoni’s advice and not try to experiment too much.
Mohit, who claimed three wickets for 31 run to help restrict RR to 148, spoke to IPLT20.com after the win in Ranchi.
Excerpts from his interview:
After being hit, you came back to claim Watson who was on song. How do you keep yourself calm when hit for runs?
Staying calm is everything. That is what I have learnt from playing all these years and with Mahi bhai around, things become that much easier. He shows you how to remain calm under pressure. You will only feel the pressure when your captain yells at you. But here, the best thing is that he comes to you and explains where you went wrong. The six that Watson hit was actually my fault, given the nature of this wicket. Dhoni came and told me that on this wicket, which is slow, I shouldn’t have tried to bowl a yorker. He told me that back-of-length and normal length balls aren’t so easy to hit here. So he told me to bowl my normal back-of-length ball, which was good enough.
What are the few things you have learnt from Dhoni about staying calm?
I have learnt from him how to handle yourself under pressure and perform well. You saw how he took the team across the line with two balls to spare. That was awesome! Maja aa gaya (I enjoyed it!).
After the kind of start RR got, were you happy to have restricted them to 148?
It is a good score on this wicket. It wasn’t an easily gettable score, so we needed to bat well, and we did. In the beginning, Dwayne Smith got off to a good start, and then Faf du Plessis batted really well, and eventually Mahi bhai finished the game in his style. So that was good.
CSK went in to the match with two pacers and three spinners. What was the plan?
This was a slow wicket. It wasn’t going to be easy to score off the spinners on this track, so I think that could have been the reason why Mahi bhai used the combination.
Length deliveries got you two big wickets. How important is line and length?
Line and length matter in all formats of the game. Without that, you can’t really do much. Even if you are hit for a four or a six, you have to come back and bowl the right line and length.
What is about the slower one that gets batsmen out?
It actually depends on the wicket. The wicket here was slow, so if you cut the pace, it is not so easy for the batsmen to hit. If the wicket is such that the ball skids and is coming on to the bat, then the slower one will come on to the bat; I have been hit for sixes on the slower one as well. You should be able to adjust according to the wicket and understand on which wicket you have to bowl yorkers and on which wicket you should bowl the slower ones.
What new deliveries are you working on?
I keep working on the ones that I have and I try to be consistent with them. I don’t try and do anything too different. I believe in performing consistently and working on what I know and strengthen it further. There is no need to experiment too much in cricket. So I work to strengthen what I have been doing all these years.
How do decide on mixing your deliveries?
You have to decide according to the wicket. At the beginning of the match Mahi bhai tells us what kind of bowling will work better on a particular wicket, and we have to do that, and it works. There is no need to digress from that and try to do something different.
How do you prepare for a batsman like Shane Watson?
You have to make yourself tougher while practicing and bowl according to what has been discussed in team meetings. In the meetings, the weak points and the strengths of the batsmen are discussed. So you plan and bowl accordingly.
What do you consider as your main weapon?
Bowling according to the situation and the wicket is my main weapon, and hope I can continue to do that.