Tamil Nadu and Punjab Kings all-rounder M. Shahrukh Khan has been consistently delivering with the bat or the ball or his captaincy this season.
His batting prowess is well-known, but his off-spin bowling has caught the attention of late. He ended up as the highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets at an economy rate of 6.66 in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL 2023) and has a fifer (5 for 103) in the ongoing season of the TNCA first division league.
If not for remarkable milestone performances, he’s been chipping in with wickets. Like he has with his two for 16 from 10 overs on Tuesday for TNCA XI versus Kerala in the ongoing Group-D match of the Buchi Babu All India invitational cricket tournament.
Asked if he sees himself as an all-rounder, he is exasperated. “I have always seen myself as an all-rounder. I’ve always been bowling well, (bowled well) in my age categories. I’ve picked up a lot of wickets.”
In all these tournaments, he’s been the captain. So, the fact that he bowls himself is indicative of the confidence he has in his bowling at the moment. And that’s handy for any team.
“If I keep my form till the Ranji Trophy season with the ball, it’s gonna be good for the team (Tamil Nadu). Because I’m pretty handy with the ball. Sometimes I get wickets, I try and break partnerships. So, it’s gonna be good if I keep continuing my form.”
And he seemed imperious with the bat here in his latest innings - 60 off 48 balls (8x4, 2x6). On a second-day pitch that still offered carry to the fast bowlers, he was particularly severe on the short balls. He’s hit three fifties in the TNCA league. That’s the way he intends to bat in any and all cricket. “I think no matter what the format is, I still keep backing my instincts. Whether it’s with the ball or the bat, I will play the same way, it’s not gonna change.
“Since something has worked out for me for so long, it doesn’t make sense for me to change it. If something has worked out for so long, that means it has to keep working out in the future as well. I’m just gonna stick to it, not gonna change anything.”
His management of the bowlers, including himself, has drawn appreciation from the TNCA XI coach and former India pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji.
“Excellent leadership by Shahrukh. He handled the bowlers really well. The rotation of bowlers was very good. He gives himself a chance when it matters. When the tailenders were getting going, he came in and broke the partnership,” Balaji said on the first day of the match after having inspected and discussed the wicket with his captain at the end of play.
On Thursday, when Sachin Baby looked well-set, having scored a fifty, and was building a partnership with Vathsal Govind Sharma, Shahrukh chose to bowl himself and removed the half-centurion.
Shahrukh’s team management as a captain was a highlight in Lyca Kovai Kings’ second straight title-win in TNPL this year.
“He lets me be free. And he’s very calm. So, that certainly really helps. I think especially as a leg-spinner, from a leg-spinner’s perspective, it certainly helps when your captain backs you and lets you go and express yourself. So, that’s certainly something he does. I love playing under his captaincy! Getting the freedom is a huge thing and he really gives that to me fully. And he backs me a lot!” said the 23-year-old Jhathavedh Subramanyan who plays under Shahrukh Khan for Lyca Kovai Kings in the TNPL and Grand Slam in the TNCA league.
Overall, Shahrukh seems to be developing into a hard-hitting, spin-bowling all-rounder and an able captain who keeps doing his bit. In a cricket match, bits and pieces matter.
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