CHENNAI: Not keeping track of personal milestones is one trait that prolific run-scorers embody.
Priyank Panchal’s reply after Gujarat’s Vijay Hazare Trophy Elite Group C clash against Jammu and Kashmir at the IIT-Chemplast ground on Sunday served as apt evidence for that statement.
“I didn’t even know what my score was,” he said with a smile. Considering that the opener’s team didn’t really have a target to make them sweat bullets (124, and they coasted to an eight-wicket win with 28.5 overs to spare), Panchal’s remark did make sense. But, he didn’t even realise before being told that he’d fallen one run short of his 15th List A half-ton.
“That’s okay. Scoring for the team is all that matters.” The 28-year-old right-hander has being doing exactly that. He may not set the bells ringing in terms of the overall run-getter list of this tournament (10th), but his 308 runs (average of 77, with one century and a fifty) is a stand-out entry in his team’s chart. Rujul Bhatt comes in second at 151.
“If you just play for your team, individual records will keep coming your way.”
That mantra was the ostensible catalyst behind his breakthrough season two years ago, when Panchal had piled up a 1,310-run mountain in the Ranji Trophy, third best in the event’s history. Unsurprisingly, Gujarat went on to lift their maiden title that season. The Ahmedabad native kept that streak going the next year (top-scorer for Gujarat, 542 runs at an average of 60.22), and that vein of form propelled him to the next rung of national recognition: Duleep Trophy and India A chances for two years on the trot.
His outings at those events this year didn’t really set the scene on fire.
The healthy glut of back-up openers in the domestic circuit notwithstanding — think Ravikumar Samarth, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Prashant Chopra, not to mention the likes of Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal — Panchal is determined to knock on selectors’ doors once again.
“Everybody wants to play for India, and there’s a long season ahead. Yes, there are many openers who have been doing well, but my focus is on my game. My aim is to just keep scoring runs for my team, format notwithstanding,” observed Panchal.
“On my part, I just make small, basic technical adjustments while switching from 50-over cricket to the four-day one. Things like sticking to straight-batted shots in the longer format, or resorting to a mix of that and horizontal-bat shots in the shorter one. But, what remains constant is your mental strength, which helps you convert starts into big scores. That’s what I want to do this time.”
His focus during game-time notwithstanding, Panchal isn’t shying away from putting in the hard yards for achieving his goals, even when he’s off the field.
“Over the past few months, I’ve been devoting time to improve my fitness levels, apart from regular sessions at the nets. I’ve also been choosy about what I eat to keep myself in good shape.”