Vijay Shankar can do a lot more damage, says coach S. Balaji

Vijay Shankar coach S. Balaji heaped praise on his ward and said that the all-rounder underwent specific preparation ahead of the Australia series.

Vijay Shankar celebrates after taking a wicket against Australia in the second ODI.   -  Vivek Bendre

The bond between them is strong. It travels back more than 13 years when Vijay Shankar was an under-15 player.

“He has shown us only 50 per cent of his ability. He can do a lot more damage,” said S. Balaji, his personal coach, to Sportstar on Wednesday.

The former Railways and Tamil Nadu batsman revealed, “Ahead of the series against Australia, we had specific training in preparation against the type of bowlers he would face.”

“For instance, for Jason Behrendorff’s left-arm over the wicket angle, Shankar practiced with a guard just outside his leg-stump, rather than a middle-and leg one. His back-foot moved towards middle stump and he was in a position to play that angle with a lot more freedom,” he added.

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Balaji said the emphasis was on a tighter back-lift. “We were aware that the yorkers would come and Shankar had a shorter back-lift and generated power with his wrists. We knew Marcus Stoinis often sent down three to four off-spinners in an over and he prepared accordingly.”

Plenty of thought has gone behind Shankar’s practise methods. Balaji said, “He bats with a steel rod with a grip, with the same length and weight of a bat. And the idea is to middle the ball, avoid edges.”

“Then we use the middler bat which is like a normal bat but with only half the width. This makes batting with the regular bat easier,” he added.

The coach further said, “Shankar’s advantage is that he is very balanced and has a top-hand grip that gives him a lot of fluency.”

Balaji is someone who emphasises on footwork. “Shankar often faces around 500 deliveries without a break in the nice indoor facility he has in his house and has to use his feet and come forward to at least 300 of them.”

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Back-foot play is vital too and here importance is given to throw-downs on artificial turf with a synthetic ball from 10 yards.

“He is sound off his back-foot. You could see that from the way Shankar played the short stuff from Pat Cummins.”

And Balaji was the one who convinced Shankar to switch to pace from off-spin.

“He is now bowling with a shorter run-up which is good. I want him to use his shoulder and wrist more. Against Australia, he was rightly focussing on bowling fuller and straighter in the last over.”

When Vijay Shankar nailed it in Nagpur with the bat and with his last over, his coach was delighted.