CHENNAI: Ankit Rajpoot knows a thing or two about pressure and responsibility, considering that he’s learnt about them the hard way. This IPL has been making it a bit of a habit of churning out games that are being decided in the last over. And the Kings XI Punjab right-arm speedster too was burdened with the task of going up against Kieron Pollard for the last six, with 15 to defend. Though a six off a no ball and a four helped Mumbai Indians squeak through off the last ball, the loss still came as another step in the 25-year-old’s learning curve.
“There’s obviously pressure when you’re in that kind of a situation. And not every time do you end up executing what you have in mind,” is how Rajpoot sums up the strain of having to defend runs in
the last over.“Such situations are obviously in the favour of batsmen, since they will go after you off every ball. But you know which variations are your strong suit. Balancing out a simple approach and mixing up your deliveries.”
The figures that Rajpoot ended up within that encounter — 1/52 in four overs — aren’t really reflective of what he brings to the table. It was only last season when he was going about doing what was expected of him, and more. Though Andrew Tye was doing the bulk of the wicket-taking for Punjab, the Kanpur native too had 11 to his name. That including a 5/14 against Delhi Daredevils, which are still the best figures for an uncapped player in IPL.
Though he may not be making the same kind of waves this time around (three wickets in three innings at an economy of 8.83), Rajpoot is intent on using the experiences he has gleaned from his previous India A outings and his stints with both Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders.
“There were a lot of things I learnt from those times,” he recollects. “Rahul (Dravid) sir had words of advice for me during my time with India A squad. Those were regarding both bettering your stock ball and working on variations that can help during pressure situations. Even my time with CSK and KKR were beneficial for me as a bowler. They helped me evolve and do better.”
A finger injury kept Rajpoot out while his team was facing Royal Challengers Bangalore last Saturday, and he also sat out their game against Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday. But as he is the most experienced India pacer after Mohammed Shami in the Punjab camp, he may still have a crucial role to play in their five remaining matches of the league stage.