'So I have pushed pretty hard in these 10-12 days in training, and my skills are up to the mark -- my body feels good and now it's all about getting into that competitive frame of mind and enjoying the match.'
Delhi Capitals all-rounder Harshal Patel said playing at neutral venues will take away the advantage of exploiting home conditions and adapting to different pitches at different venues on a consistent basis will be a challenge for all the teams at this year's IPL.
Moved out of India due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the upcoming edition of the world's biggest T20 league will be held in the three venues of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the UAE.
"I think every situation comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Having neutral venues will take away that home advantage for sure, so it's going to be challenging for teams because you can't rely on one brand of wicket," Patel said.
"We have seen in the past that teams like to prepare spin-friendly pitches when they have a spin-heavy squad and that enables them to win that way. But when you are playing on a neutral venue, you don't have that advantage. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how teams take up this challenge. I believe that skill is going to play a huge part than any other thing on these pitches," the 29-year-old said.
With the tournament being long and weather certain to be challenging, Patel said how players conserve energy in the blistering heat will be vital.
"I think the heat is going to play a huge part, especially in the afternoon games, so we will need to sit down with our trainers and physio to make sure we are preparing well in order to tackle those challenges of playing in almost 42-43 degrees.
"It is important to conserve energy, especially in training to make sure you have plenty in reserve. If you are doing well in matches, and are feeling good, there has been talk in our group that you shouldn't train too much then."
The right-arm seamer was forced to leave the tournament after playing just two games due to a fracture in his right hand last year.
"It was pretty difficult for me to leave the tournament half-way because I think I was in good touch and of course I wanted to do well.
"IPL is the biggest tournament for me because I don't play international cricket, so it was really difficult, and hard to take."
Having had a successful Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy late last year, where he performed well with both bat and ball, Patel said he has confidence in his skills and is looking forward to making an impact this year.
"I have more confidence than I have ever had in my skills. I have worked harder on my batting and I am just not that pinch-hitter anymore.
"I know how to finish games and have become more sophisticated that way. Similarly, in terms of my bowling, I am more aware of what I can and cannot do. So that puts me in a very good position ahead of this season."
Speaking on how he is shaping up physically and mentally ahead of their first match against Punjab on Sunday, Patel said, "Personally, I think it has all gone according to plan. I planned to push a little a hard for the first 10 days, and then allow myself enough recovery to taper down right before the games. So I have pushed pretty hard in these 10-12 days in training, and my skills are up to the mark -- my body feels good and now it's all about getting into that competitive frame of mind and enjoying the match."
"In terms of the team, I think whatever stimulations we have had in our practice sessions, it's all been good. I think everybody's executing their duties well, and looking very fresh," he added.