Sandeep Sharma made his India T20I debut on the tour to Zimbabwe last year. With senior seamers rested after the 50-over World Cup and the IPL, the Punjab swing bowler got a chance and was picked to played the two T20Is. It wasn’t an impressive outing in the Blues and a shoulder injury, after the tour, forced him into a six-month rehab.
The 23-year-old finds himself in a similar situation now. India are set to tour Zimbabwe after the IPL and senior players, again, are expected to be rested after the long T20 season, and the Tests to follow. With 13 wickets from 12 games for Kings XI Punjab in the ninth edition of the IPL, Sandeep is confident to receive India call, irrespective whether seniors are rested or not. Excerpts:
Before the season, shoulder injury kept you out of action. How was the whole rehab process?
I was out of action for six months. The rehab took six months and I slowly started bowling before hitting full tilt. It in a way it turned out to be good because it allowed me to work on my bowling. I spent a lot of time in the nets and worked on my strengths (swing) and got the art of bowling yorkers right. It was certainly good ahead of the season. I worked on the slower ball, the yorker, slower bouncers. Having more deliveries and variations helps in this format.
Was speed an area addressed during that time?
Yes, definitely. I know swing is my strength and it can get most batsmen in trouble. So I know that if I am able to add speed to my swing, it will be great for my bowling. Not that I want to move from swing to speed, but want to add some speed to my strength.
Your yorkers have come good this season, especially at the death. How satisfying this turnaround has been?
In previous seasons, I used to bowl in the circle. Say three in the circle and an over or two in the middle half of the innings. Now the captain trusts me to deliver at any stage of the game. I have bowled in the circle, at the death and even the 12th or 14th over of the innings. It’s very encouraging for me to see the captain give me the ball at any stage of the game. Earlier it used to be mostly with the new ball but it has changed with the season. I am performing well with the old ball too. The yorkers, slower ones are coming nicely off my hand.
And the slower one? The back of the hand slower one which Mohit Sharma bowls successfully.
That is something which I want to learn and would work towards during the off season. I have had discussions with Mohit bhai about it and he said it’s something which comes naturally to him. So it’s easier for him because it’s something on which he didn’t have to work much. He told me that he used to bowl it everywhere – gully cricket and matches. I know it’s a difficult delivery to master but would definitely give me an extra edge.
It has been an impressive season for you. Are you expecting India call-up for Zimbabwe tour? Considering seniors could be rested
I am expecting a call but not because senior bowlers would be rested. I feel I have performed and proven enough to break into the Indian team. It’s something beyond my control but I have done my job. It has been a good season for me and it gives me the confidence to receive a call for the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe.
Coming to the IPL, it has been a season of two halves for KXIP. You struggled under David Miller and are hitting the right notes under Murali Vijay. What has been the difference?
I wouldn’t want to compare the two because the situation was very different at the start. We were experimenting to get the right combination under Miller and found it under Vijay. Back then Stoinis wasn’t opening, we didn’t have Amla, Mann wasn’t there. But we are clicking as a unit and the combination is right. We would have won even under Miller with this combination. So it’s difficult to compare the two.
Has Vijay’s appointment helped?
In some ways, yes. He is an Indian player and I have played a lot of cricket with him. We are employed by the same company so he knows about my bowling. Moreover, having a Indian captain is certainly helpful because he knows the Indian players well.
Amla has injected a lot of stability at top of the order. How has it been bowling to him in the nets, learning from him?
It’s always a bonus for Indian players because we get to bowl to such players because of the IPL. For Amla, more than the net sessions it’s the interactions with him which have helped. He stays so calm under all situations. Whether he gets out early or scores big, he remains the same. It’s something which most players struggle to manage but I wish to pick it from him. The calmness to remain the same in different situations.
And bowling to big guns in matches? Someone like Kohli or AB?
See what they are doing this season is no secret. They are sticking to their strengths. And I focus to do the same. Swing bowling remains my strength and I look to be on top of game against these quality players. There is no point planning or thinking too far ahead about all this. It’s just about backing yourself and sticking to your strengths.