New Delhi, June 24: Virat Singh has emerged as one of the most promising batting talents in the domestic circuit and wishes to replicate his success in the Indian Premier League (IPL) if the cash-rich T20 league happens this year. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the BCCI to suspend the tournament indefinitely, but Virat hopes that IPL 2020 is held later this year.
The hard-hitting middle-order batsman from Jamshedpur had a rather productive Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament last year. The southpaw finished the 2019-20 season as eighth-highest run-getter with 343 runs in 10 games at an average of 57.16 - the best for Jharkhand.
The 22-year-old is touted as an exciting young talent, and many believe that he has it in him to make it to the big stage one day. The uncapped youngster was rewarded for a good show in the last couple of domestic seasons during the IPL 2020 auction when he was picked up by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a sum of Rs 1.9 crore. Virat had been on cloud-nine after getting picked up by 2016 IPL champions and at the prospects of playing with the likes of David Warner, Kane Williamson, and being mentored by legendary India batsman VVS Laxman.
MyKhel had an exclusive conversation with Virat Singh and the youngster spoke about his journey so far, lessons he learnt playing for a club in England and of course the vital inputs from legendary India captain MS Dhoni, with whom he shared the Jharkhand dressing room.
Here are the excerpts:
MyKhel: How has the lockdown treated you?
Virat Singh: Well, it has been depressing, to be honest. Initially, it was, but I've been doing all that I can to keep myself fit with whatever limited resources I had. I have set up a small gym at home, so I've been working on my strength and I have been doing a lot of running sessions now. Initially, I couldn't just because the ground wasn't available but now since the lockdown has eased a bit, I can do my running sessions ad doing my batting a bit.
MK: How has been your journey in the domestic circuit in the last couple of seasons?
VS: I started my offseason in England where is played for Seaham Park cricket club in Durham County where I finished a lot of games for my club. I picked up my form from there itself and it gave me a belief that if I can do well in England, I can deliver at home as well. I had that confidence coming into the previous season. I was batting in the middle order, and most of the time I found myself in situations where we had to finish the game as my team required about 100 runs in 10 or 15 overs. So I saw those things as an opportunity and was able to finish my games first in Vijay Hazare Trophy, then in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
So, now my main focus is to make the most of the opportunities, be it the domestic season or the IPL. Whenever I get the opportunity, I'll try and finish games for my whatever team I play.
MK: How did you counter to the swinging conditions in England because the ball tends to do a lot in the air there?
VS: To be honest it's a myth that there is not much swing in Indian conditions. When I first went to England in 2018, I found the weather pretty chilly over there and the conditions were mostly overcast. The balls used to do a lot and also wickets used to be a bit damp due to the weather conditions do not allow you much time to prepare the wickets. Initially, I struggled to be honest but as I started getting used to the condition and the pitches, I got better. Then I told myself that no matter the circumstances, you'll have to adapt and do it for the team because excuses never work.
And after coming back to India, I found the subsequent seasons pretty easy for me because I was already challenged by tougher English conditions. Although the bowling standard in our domestic cricket is pretty high than what I faced in England, the wickets here are so good that if you play with confidence and belief in you, you can do well.
The bowlers in domestic cricket here are talented because of the level of the game has increased. Due to the IPL, the domestic cricketers get to interact with the best coaches and players; and that has helped them take their game to the next level. So the quality of bowling in our domestic circuit is getting better with every passing season. Almost every team has four out of five quality bowlers in its rank, so you are tested all the time.
MK: During the IPL 2020 Auction, you were purchased by Sunrisers Hyderabad for this season of the IPL. What are your expectations from a champion side like SRH?
VS: It will be my first season in the IPL but what I've seen and heard from the outside is Rajasthan (Royals), Delhi (Capitals) and Sunrisers (Hyderabad) has given a lot of opportunities to the youngsters. So I am expecting the same for myself as well. Also, what I've heard from other players in the IPL, VVS Laxman - who is the mentor of the team - gives a lot of chance to the youngsters. So having someone like VVS Laxman in the team is going to help me a lot. Hopefully, I'll get a few matches in this year's IPL, if the tournament happens. I wish to make an immediate impact and not let the team management down for backing me.
MK: Are you also working on your bowling so that you can chip in with a couple of overs of spin whenever the team needs you?
VS: I used to be a leg-spinner in my U-16 days but then I injured one of my fingers which is involved in leg-spin. So after that, I started bowling off-spin but I don't know why the stats websites haven't changed it yet.
I've bowled a lot in England and in the domestic circuit as well so in the last couple of seasons I have improved a lot as a bowler. I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to bowl in the IPL but I'll definitely roll my sleeves in the nets.
MK: You must have spent some time with former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. What has been his input for you whenever you shared the dressing room or the nets with him?
VS: Whenever he's (MS Dhoni) to Ranchi, he comes and joins the team. His mere presence (in the dressing room) itself is a big thing for us. And whatever he speaks is priceless, as people say. So yeah, he motivates us a lot. Whenever he opens his mouth, he speaks quality. I've asked a lot of questions to him, and he has always guided me. One of the questions I asked him when I was going through a rough patch. He just told me 'don't worry about one tournament not going right. Think about the next game, the next tournament, keep working on your basics. A good performance will come, don't think much about your form.' He advised me to stay calm and positive, that helped me.
About my batting, he told me to try and manipulate the field once you are set. That was priceless advice from him, and I think I applied that in the previous season and it helped me a lot.
MK: As you mentioned earlier, you wish to be a finisher for your team. Did you take any tips from MS Dhoni regarding this?
VS: To be honest, I haven't asked him this question. Having said that I've seen a lot of his games on the television, what he does, how he does. I don't watch the game as a fan or a spectator. I watch the games to learn. So whenever India or Chennai Super Kings are chasing, I try to observe how he goes about his business. I watch both MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli how they handle the pressure, and deal with different bowlers differently while chasing.
MK: Who is your favourite cricketer?
VS: Look, being a left-hander I used to watch Kumar Sangakkara back in the days. What he has done for Sri Lanka cricket is infectious, he's technically very sound as well. I used to copy his upright batting stance in the early years of my career, but gradually I developed my style.
And obviously, I am a big fan of MS Dhoni not just he hails from my state but also because he has inspired a generation of youngsters.