Against Pakistan in a hyped World Cup match with its share of expectations that could either inspire or suffocate, Vijay Shankar displayed a calm head. He chipped in an unbeaten 15, prised out two wickets and was one of the heroes of India’s triumph at Old Trafford.
And after the Indian team relocated here for Saturday’s face-off against Afghanistan, the all-rounder went about his routines, got a toe-crusher from Jasprit Bumrah in the nets but did not discard his smile or quiet confidence. In a press conference at the Hampshire Bowl on Friday, Shankar allayed fears over his injury and said: “I have got a lot better.” He also added that he hoped to play.
The Pakistan game has enhanced Shankar’s self-esteem and he admitted: “Last game gave me some confidence. Playing against Pakistan, making my (World Cup) debut against them and it was very special for me to perform under pressure and come out good.”
The Tamil Nadu star, however, refused to lapse into complacence and stressed that both him and the Indian team are striving hard to further improve: “If you can keep getting better, we can set better standards in every game. As for me, I will look to get better in every aspect of the game. Sometimes it's better to understand the situation, which will be very important in this tournament.”
In pictures: India's practice session ahead of Afghanistan match
Ahead of the World Cup, Shankar was billed to play at number four but Hardik Pandya has emerged at that slot. Asked about the pressure of being moved up and down the order, Shankar countered: “It's not about taking that extra pressure. It's about taking extra responsibility and delivering it at the right time for the team.”
With Afghanistan lined up as the next opponent, Shankar refused to belittle the rival squad nor star spinner Rashid Khan, who had a rough encounter against England. “It's not about against whom we are playing. I think it's about how we play as individuals. Rashid is definitely one of the best bowlers right now in limited overs cricket and he has done well. Anyone can go for runs on any day. Having played with him (with Sunrisers Hyderabad) for a couple of years, it's very important for me to pick his variations,” Shankar said.