South Africa tour helped immensely, says Priyank Panchal

After scoring 188 runs in five innings in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the Gujarat batter travelled to South Africa twice - first with the India A team and later with the India national team.

Priyank Panchal is currently gearing up for the Ranji Trophy which is set to commence from February 17.   -  THE HINDU

The last few months have been a learning experience for Priyank Panchal. After scoring 188 runs in five innings in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the Gujarat batter travelled to South Africa twice - first with the India A team and later with the India national team.

Even though he had to warm the bench for the three-match Test series, the series gave enough exposure to Panchal. And as he gears up for the Ranji Trophy, the batter wants to implement those learnings in his game.

In a chat with Sportstar on Monday, Panchal spoke on a range of issues…

 

The Ranji Trophy will be back after two years. What are your thoughts? How’s the preparation going?

The Ranji Trophy is always important. This is one stage where everyone wants to perform well and it is a stage to prove your talent. The Gujarat team has been training for the last 10-12 days and we are doing pretty well as a team. We did well in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and in Ranji Trophy, our target is to play well and qualify for the knockouts.

 

The matches have been reduced in the group stages due to time constraints. How do you see that?

We all know it’s an evolving situation in terms of COVID-19 and the nature of the virus is such that it can affect anybody. So, we have to deal with it. But thankfully, the tournament is happening. And I am sure gradually the players and teams will also get the confidence on how to again proceed with more four-day games.

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The last few months have been momentous for you as you toured South Africa twice - first with the India A team and then with the senior team. How was the experience? What have been the learning from those two tours?

Firstly, I think the India A tour helped me immensely to get an idea of the conditions and also gel well with the team-mates. The standard of India A is very close to the Indian team as several international cricketers often play in the team. So, thankfully, I have been able to be a part of the India A team for the last four-five years and those experiences have helped me.

So, when I got the chance to tour with the Indian team, it was a big moment for me, even though I did not play a game. It was quite an experience being around with so many players.

 

What were your conversations with the Indian cricketers and the coaches? What have those few weeks taught you?

We had normal conversations regarding the game. It was an opportunity for me to observe so many top cricketers and learn a thing or two from them.

I agree that the challenges of domestic and international cricket are slightly different, even though the basics are the same. In international cricket, the bowlers are very accurate and they come with two or three plans. In case one plan does not work, they opt for Plan B, so you have to be agile in terms of your batting and also, you have to stick to your plan. It is not just about your technique, but it is also about how you prepare mentally. That’s the best thing. You need to play to your strength.

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You have previously worked with Rahul Dravid. But on the tour of South Africa, you also had the chance of sharing the dressing room with Virat Kohli. Did you manage to pick his brains?

We just had a general conversation. But for sure, I have learnt some important things from him. He scored some 70-odd runs in the last game (79 in the first innings and 29 in the second innings of the third Test), and that was such a disciplined innings. He was working so hard at the nets. So, that also showed his hunger to score runs and stay at the wicket. The wicket was really difficult in the last game, and scoring runs required discipline. His efforts were really outstanding and that’s something I have learnt from him.

 

Having learnt so many things from that tour, how are you planning to implement them to your batting in the coming days?

That challenge came two or three years ago, where I had to improve my white ball game. That is also helping me in red ball cricket. When you improve your white ball game, you are looking to score runs. In red ball cricket, you obviously will have to play according to the ball, but whenever you get an opportunity, you will have to score runs. It is not like that you only need to defend, whenever there is a chance, you need to accelerate and score runs. I benefitted from that approach in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this season, where I was the highest run-scorer from our team. I have scored consistently with a good strike rate. Even in last year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy, I got a hundred (134) against Andhra in the quarterfinals. I have been getting results.

Plan for red ball cricket is different, but this approach certainly helps. So, now, even in red ball cricket, instead of just being defensive, you tend to score runs. That’s the shift in mindset.

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In the first match against the West Indies, Deepak Hooda made his debut for India. Even so many other cricketers are also on the verge of making the cut. Do you think that your time will also come soon?

I think it will come. Gradually things are happening and people will recognise that I am also scoring runs in white ball. For me, the experience of India A will help, if I get a chance in the IPL also. I have faced international cricketers, even though it is red ball cricket. But you ultimately play with the same set of international cricketers.

 

Do you think that you are often labelled as a only red-ball batter?

That is not my way of thinking. I am just focusing on my game and I will keep on doing it - be it red ball or white ball. I take everything as a challenge and try to improve my game.

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