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Rediff.com  » Cricket » IPL helps you test yourself against the best: Mandeep

IPL helps you test yourself against the best: Mandeep

Last updated on: June 1, 2012 09:29 IST

Mandeep named IPL's Rising Star player

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Mandeep Singh emerged the unlikely hero for Kings XI Punjab in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League with consistent batting.

Drafted in as opener after captain Adam Gilchrist was forced out due to injury, the 20-year-old left a mark on the T20 tournament with a courageous performance at the top of the order.

He finished with an impressive tally of 432 runs from 16 matches and was deservedly named the 'IPL's Rising Star Player', which means the best young player of the tournament.

Mandeep has also achieved success for Punjab in domestic cricket in the last two years, having scored 1074 runs in 13 first class matches at an average of 63.17. The most impressive part of Mandeep's batting, which also underlines his potential for the future, is his ability to play fast bowling.

In a freewheeling conversation with Rediff.com's Harish Kotian, the young batting star speaks about his success in the IPL, on how the international players in the Kings XI Punjab squad helped him and his plans for the future.

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Image: Mandeep Singh
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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'I feel I still need to improve a lot'

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You were named as the best young player of IPL 5. How does it feel to be recognized as a star for the future in such a widely followed tournament?

It feels special to get that award. Firstly, I want to thank my team Kings XI Punjab for giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent. Then senior players, like Adam Gilchrist and David Hussey, supported me a lot, while our assistant coach Vikram Rathore has been working with me for more than a year now. All these people have also played a role in my success in the IPL.

It feels good when you work hard at something and achieve success.

But I feel I still need to improve a lot. I believe I could have done much better if I hadn't got out in the 20s and 30s on a few occasions. In future I will look to convert it into 60s and 70s.

Even my coach Vikram Rathore said he is happy with my performance, but I could have done better. He told me that next season I have to emerge as the match-winner for my team and play more substantial innings.

As you said, you were unhappy with getting out in the 20s and 30s a few times, but you still managed to finish as the highest scorer for Kings XI Punjab with 432 runs from 16 matches. That must have been satisfying. Did you ever imagine at the start of the IPL that you will have such an impact with the bat?

I was confident of doing well because I was working hard on my game and had come into the IPL on the back of a good season in domestic cricket. In fact, I have performed well in domestic cricket in the last two years, so I was looking forward to do well in the IPL because it will be good for my career and also boost my confidence.

I contributed well in all these matches, and even when I made 20s or 30s I gave the team a good start in virtually every match.

As I said earlier, I was a bit disappointed that I could not convert the starts. If I had managed that maybe I would have ended up with five or six half-centuries instead of just two.


Photographs: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

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'My preparation coming into the IPL was good'

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But it must be difficult for an opening batsman, especially in T20 cricket, to plan to convert the start into a big innings because you have to attack in the first six overs?

Yes, it is not easy. My role was to attack in the first six overs, so I had to take a few risks. There were a few instances when I felt I had got my eye in and could have carried on to play a big innings and it could have helped the team, but I got out at the wrong time.

As you said it is difficult to plan your innings because in the first six overs you must play some attacking shots and get maximum runs during the fielding restrictions.

And there is also the fear of failure for a youngster like you, because there is a lot of pressure from everywhere to deliver. How difficult was it, especially in the first few matches?

There is definitely some pressure, but you have to back yourself and believe in your abilities. I was confident that if I played to my strengths I will score runs. I took a lot of confidence from the domestic season where I scored a lot of runs plus my preparation coming into the IPL was good.

My focus was only to play to my strengths, which I did and the results are there for everyone to see.

You finished tenth in the list of highest run-getters in the IPL this season. Does it make you happy to you find yourself in the company of stars like Chris Gayle, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag among others?

Absolutely, it makes me happy when I see myself in the top-10 list. I was consistently in the top-10 run scoring list throughout the tournament.

It feels good to be in the company of such top players and it gives me satisfaction that I have done well with the bat.

You started playing in the middle order before you were drafted as an opener, after captain and regular opener Adam Gilchrist was injured. Whose idea was it to promote you as opener?

Last year also we discussed that I would open the innings, because I play fast bowling well and you need openers who are good at playing fast bowling.

In the last IPL, I was supposed to open but my finger was dislocated so I didn't get a chance to play and Paul Valthaty also did well as an opener.

This time, luckily, I got a chance to open and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands; but this talk of me opening the batting was being discussed by Adam Gilchrist and the team management last year also.


Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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'In the first few matches, I was trying too hard'

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You bat at number three in domestic cricket for Punjab. So did that experience help you to get adjusted to the opener's role?

It did help, because when you bat at number three many times you come in to bat early, sometimes even in the first over. When I played at the Under-19 level for India, that time too I batted at number three in England and Australia.

So I have got a lot of experience playing fast bowlers in the last few years. I believe that if you are batting at number three or four, then you can also open the innings.

You are not someone who hits the ball hard or a long way, but look to play it in the gaps and only play proper cricketing shots. How do you plan your innings? You scored at a good strike rate of 126 in the IPL, without taking too many risks...

In the first few matches, I was trying too hard; I was looking to play across the line and trying too many things. But the experienced players in the Kings XI Punjab squad, like Hussey, Gilchrist and Mahmood, helped me in that phase.

Hussey told me that whenever I played proper cricketing shots, I did well. He advised me to just concentrate on playing the normal shots and not worry about anything else, which worked for me.


Photographs: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

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'IPL is a kind of international exposure for India's youngsters'

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In domestic cricket, Punjab plays most of its matches in Mohali, where the pitches suit fast bowling. In the IPL too, Kings XI Punjab played their home matches at Mohali and Dharamsala, where fast bowlers got a lot of help. Has batting and practicing on those wickets helped you improve as a batsman and made you better prepared to counter the fast bowlers?

We play our Ranji Trophy home matches in Mohali, where the conditions are difficult for batsmen. For a top order batsman it is difficult to play against the new ball, but that has helped me become a better batsman against the fast bowlers. So playing domestic cricket on good pitches like Mohali has helped me perform better in the IPL.

Do you believe that the IPL helps to improve young domestic cricketers? You get to test yourself against some of the best players in international cricket...

In the IPL, when you play with some of the big names in international cricket, it gives you a lot of confidence that you can also do well at the highest level.

A youngster does not get a chance to play fast bowlers of the quality of Morne Morkel or Dale Steyn in Indian domestic cricket, so that is the big benefit of playing in the IPL. You get to test yourself against the best players in the world and if you perform against them, then it is a big boost for your confidence and your career.

The IPL is a kind of international exposure for India's youngsters. It is not easy to make the transition from domestic cricket to international cricket and IPL is that bridge in between which helps in making that smooth transition.

You get a fair idea of what kind of bowlers or batsmen you will come across in international cricket. And if you have done well against them in the IPL, then you will play them confidently. That is the best part about the IPL.


Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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'I learnt a lot from Adam Gilchrist'

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How was it opening with someone of the stature of Adam Gilchrist? What did you learn from him?

I learnt a lot from Adam Gilchrist, not only about cricket, but also a lot about off-field stuff -- on how to manage yourself, how to stay fit, what to eat and other things.

For example, this year when I was in Chennai I got dehydrated while batting and then Gilchrist told me that when you play in a place like Chennai, where there is a lot of humidity, you need to hydrate yourself well by drinking lots of fluids a day or two days before the match.

You must drink lot of fluids and eat bananas which helps to fight dehydration. So these are some of the off-field things that you learn from a great player like Gilchrist, which also plays a part in your growth as a cricketer.

On the field too, he helps a lot by telling you how to play a certain bowler or how to bat in certain conditions or pitches, how to plan your practice sessions.

So cricketing-wise you learn a lot, but off the field too you pick up a lot from Gilchrist.

David Hussey calls you a special player. Did you talk to experienced international players like Hussey or Shaun Marsh or Azhar Mahmood? What did you try to pick up from them?

Yes, I do talk a lot to them and try to pick up whatever I can. I remember how Azhar Mahmood has helped me this season with his tips.

When he came into our squad this season, he gave me tips on how to play the moving ball. He told me about my initial movement, that I was a bit late in that and if I started moving well then I will have more time to deal with the moving ball.

He also worked with me in the nets to try out the same. We practiced a lot in the nets before the match in Bangalore and when I tried that in the match, it helped me.

So this is the big benefit of playing with such experienced players; they keep giving you tips which make a difference to your game.


Photographs: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

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'I have been following Sachin Tendulkar keenly'

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You idolize your game on Sachin Tendulkar. How much has he inspired you?

I have been following Sachin Tendulkar keenly and want to be like him. I try to copy everything that he does, like his batting style or the way he practice in the nets. He is my idol and I have been inspired by him since I was a child.

Having done well in domestic cricket for the last two years, and now in the IPL this season, you must be desperate to break into the Indian team. Any dreams?

My dream is to play for India someday. As you know, selection is not my hands, so I will control whatever is in my hands and that is to work hard and keep improving everyday. All I can do is keep scoring consistently in whatever matches I play and the selection will take care of itself.

The upcoming domestic season will be crucial for you. Now that you have captured everyone's imagination your progress will followed keenly?

Since last year I have been working hard so I will continue to work hard and improve on my strengths. I will look to improve as a batsman and hope to perform even better in this season of domestic cricket.


Photographs: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

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