Mandeep Singh played a few game-changing innings for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in this IPL, including a 34-ball 54 not out in the Eliminator against the Rajasthan Royals. The season, however, had started off badly for the 23-year-old. An atrocious, reverse-lap against Yusuf Pathan at Eden Gardens had put a question mark over his temperament. In an interview with The Sunday Express, the young middle-order batsman recalled how he got a stick from Yuvraj Singh after that game. He also spoke about how AB de Villiers helped him with his batting technique.
Do you remember that shot? Did the team management tell you anything after you got out?
I remember it very well. No, the team management didn’t criticise me. Rather, they told me if I was comfortable playing such strokes, then I should back my strengths. But Yuvi bhai called me and gave me a severe dressing-down (Yuvraj plays for DD, but is Mandeep’s teammate in Ranji Trophy). He told me he didn’t want to see such a shot again, especially in the early part of the innings. It was a pre-determined shot. I had hit him (Pathan) for a six on the previous ball. I expected something flatter and shorter next ball and decided to play a reverse lap even before he had completed the delivery. I missed the ball and was bowled. I was feeling guilty. But I’ve learnt from the mistake.
You’ve joined Bangalore this term. How is the experience?
Kings XI Punjab were also very good. But here, I’ve the opportunity to play alongside AB and Virat (Kohli). It’s a big privilege for any (young) cricketer. AB has worked on my technique. I had a couple of technical problems — head was falling a bit at the point of contact with the ball and hands were going away from the body. AB has worked with me to help rectify my faults. ‘You’ve an initial trigger movement which is fine. But it should be complete at the point of the delivery release. It would allow you to keep the head still,’ AB told me during net sessions. I worked on it and managed to get rid of the problems. But my hands are still going a little away from the body. It’s not a big deal in T20, but very important in first-class matches.
How Virat Kohli, as a captain, helps you with your cricket?
One thing I’ve learnt from Virat is how to switch on and off. TV grabs might give you an impression that he’s a very aggressive person. Far from it. He likes to play aggressive cricket and leads from the front. But the way he switches off between matches is remarkable. The way he handles himself off the field is outstanding. I’ve been learning from him how to manage pressure and not get bogged down by it. And as a captain, he always teaches you to play to win. He never tells his bowlers to contain the opposition. He tells them to take wickets. Whatever be the situation, he doesn’t go defensive.
You used to open the innings for Kings XI. Here, you’re coming down the order. What are the changes you had to make?
The team management told me I would be batting at No. 4 or 5 after I signed up for Bangalore. Now I’m concentrating on finishing, which used to be a weak area of my game. I’ve concentrated on cutting down the dot balls. The change has helped.
For a player of your talent, you’ve underachieved so far. Consistency has been a factor. Do you think the upcoming (first-class) season would be very crucial for your career?
Precisely. I would say it’s going to be a make-or-break season. I didn’t have a good Ranji season last this year, although I played well in limited-overs matches. But five years of IPL experience has allowed me to gain maturity. I want to carry it forward to first-class cricket as well.
You’ve already played for India ‘A’. Have you set a time-frame for yourself as far as Team India is concerned?
I’m not thinking anything about India ‘A’ or India at the moment. This is one more thing I’ve learnt from Virat. I just want to score a truckload of runs (in domestic cricket). That’s my job.