Shreyas Gopal truly came into his own this last IPL season. He emerged the tournament’s fourth-highest wicket-taker with 20 victims, and was by a distance Rajasthan Royals’ best bowler. The leg-spinner claimed a memorable hat-trick against RCB in Bengaluru, and was hailed by Royals captain Steve Smith as a “complete package”.
His IPL performance has evidently not gone unnoticed, with Shreyas subsequently called up to the India-A team for the ongoing one-day series against Sri Lanka-A. The situation is far removed from his years at Mumbai Indians, where he played only two games in his final three seasons before moving to RR in 2018.
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“It feels good to have done well in the IPL,” he says, after the second one-dayer at the KSCA Stadium here. “The work that I put in away from competition was immense. I’m glad that it translated into performances as well. This is just the start for me. It’s important that I grab every opportunity from here. More than that, when I walk off the field I need to be satisfied, and have no regrets about my efforts.”
The highlight of Shreyas’s IPL display was the hat-trick at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, with Virat Kohli, A.B. de Villiers, and Marcus Stoinis his victims. “It felt great, coming on my home ground,” he says. “You always dream about a special performance like that. But I shouldn’t be getting too carried away.”
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The 25-year-old has now dismissed de Villiers and Kohli four and three times respectively in his last four games agains RCB. “Obviously, the best wickets anyone can hope to take in modern-day cricket,” he says. “But I had no specific plan against them. In T20 cricket, the margin for error is very less. You can use the wider balls, closer balls, you can bowl flatter, slower. But at the end of the day, your length has to remain consistent. Every time I missed my length, I kept going the distance this IPL. I need to try and be more accurate.”
The googly has become an effective weapon for Shreyas; but it is a delivery he employs judiciously. “I use it only based on my gut feel; I don't want to use it too much and become predictable,” he says. “I need to learn how to disguise it well. If you can spin the ball both ways, you always have an advantage. That's one of the reasons why leg-spinners are doing slightly better here. Again, it boils down to accuracy. There's no leg-spinner who's getting wickets who is not accurate.”
Shreyas is aware, though, that one good IPL season is no guarantee of anything. “Nothing has changed. People are going to study your bowling, so you need to be more consistent and disciplined with your work ethic. You're always learning. That never stops.”