CHENNAI: The IPL is not only glitz and glamour. It can make or break careers. It can be unforgiving for uncapped players, even if he happens to be the captain of a state team. Vijay Shankar will attest to this.
Last year, during Sunrisers Hyderabad’s title-winning run, he had to be content with a handful of substitute appearances. After guiding Tamil Nadu to the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy titles, the 26-year-old approached this season believing that his chance will come.
“Last year, sometimes I got overawed with the company or couldn’t focus because of consistent niggles. This time, even though I was one of the last to join the camp, I was confident. I was hitting the ball well and working really hard,” Vijay told Express.
His chance finally came against Mumbai Indians in Hyderabad’s third game. It didn’t go according to plans as he came out to bat in the 18th over and fell in the 19th (1 off 2). He was back to the bench after that. He came in as substitute and caught Dwayne Smith (Gujarat Lions), other than effecting a run out against Delhi Daredevils (Karun Nair).
“I kept training hard, in practice as well as in the gym. I kept myself prepared for any eventuality. A player might get injured and my chance might come. I was working behind the scenes with coach Tom Moody and bowling coach Muttiah Muralidharan. All of us (uncapped players) were paired with senior stars and working with Kane Williamson broadened my horizon with regards to batting. Watching the likes of David Warner, Yuvraj Singh prepare ahead of a game taught me a lot.”
Tough practice sessions
Moody kept pushing him to bowl more in the nets and gave him valuable tips regarding how to improve his action, he revealed. “We were a closely-knit bunch. I kept hanging out with Siddarth Kaul and Bipul Sharma. My practice routine caught the eye of VVS Laxman. He came up to me before the game against Gujarat and told me that my hard work will pay off. He told me to enjoy my game and I kept that in mind when I went out to bat.”
This frame of mind came in handy when Sunrisers were 25/2 in a must-win match. With Warner, he guided the team home, bringing up a maiden IPL fifty (63 off 40) in the process. “Watching Warner was a learning experience. He never tried to go hammer and tongs and played proper cricketing strokes. I tried the same, which resulted in the highest IPL partnership (133) without a six,” Vijay said.
Not getting carried away
Praise from former cricketers and teammates followed, something he is pleased with but doesn’t want to get to his head. Even though the defending champions were knocked out in a rain-curtailed tie, Vijay was happy with the overall campaign. “Luck deserted us at a crucial time. Personally, interacting with international stars helped my the understanding of the game. Hopefully, I can carry this forward and improve my game,” he signed off.