Spinning a success story

Shreyas, a batting all-rounder, looks forward to leading Karnataka's spin attack this domestic season

Spinning a success story

Among a number of young Karnataka cricketers that is knocking on the door of the senior Indian team, Shreyas Gopal is one of the front runners.

The leg-spinning all-rounder made his Ranji Trophy debut in 2013 and since then has grown in his role, cementing his place in a squad where many find it hard to break in. Though Shreyas came into the squad mainly as a batsman who could bowl, the 22-year-old has been more noticed for his bowling which has fetched him 97 wickets in 30 first-class games. Having begun his campaign to the new domestic season with a five-wicket haul for India Green in the Duleep Trophy tie against India Red this week, the right-hander is looking forward to the challenge of being the lead spinner for his State team besides contributing with the bat. Excerpts from a chat with Deccan Herald.  
   
You made first-class debut three seasons ago, what has been the journey like so far?

I got a lot more exposure playing Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, India A and IPL as well… A lot of exposure and lots of opportunities to play with the best in the world. There’s a lot to learn. There is a lot of positive attitude and mindset in the way they play their cricket. Not just on the field of play, but even off it, the way they are as persons…. That’s one aspect that I have really gained knowledge-wise. I had the privilege of working under so many great coaches, taking their guidance and the way they played their cricket, if I can incorporate that in my game, it will definitely help me grow as a cricketer.

There is obviously a lot of difference between age-group cricket and first-class cricket.

It’s challenging… Age-group cricket, there isn’t as much pressure on you to start with. You know you will have your time in that little stretch… There is a phase that you know you can bat it out or a partnership to break as a bowler and once that is done, you know you are in the game. But whereas in Ranji Trophy or India A, you have to be always at it. To stay on top is a real challenge. What I have observed is that teams or individuals, once they are on top, they try to remain there as long as possible and try and finish off the task as soon as possible.

You came in as a batting all-rounder, and while your batting hasn’t been bad at all, you have tallied over 1000 runs over three seasons. But your bowling has been more impressive… Three more wickets and you will complete 100 first-class wickets.

I got picked in the Ranji squad (in 2013) after some good performances in the under-25 tournament -- I had two 150s and couple of a five-wicket hauls.  Batting-wise, the first season of my Ranji Trophy was poor. My average was eight or nine… I was sorted out in the first year itself. It took me actually a lot to bounce back and get 700 or 800 runs that I got in the second season. But bowling has always been a part of me, I have been regularly bowling since my under-16 days. However, it’s not going to be easy, everybody is going to watch my videos just like I do others’. So, I need to pick up a few things and try to look better every season. It will probably help me have that little bit of edge over others. Other than that it’s just about sticking to your basics and being able to do the same things repeatedly. I forget who said this but to be successful, you need to be boring (Virat Kohli said that prior to India’s departure to the West Indies). That is something that really struck me and made a lot of sense to me.

What do you look forward to add to your bowling because you could be the lead spinner for Karnataka this season?

It’s definitely going to be a big challenge to be the lead spinner of this team. As a State we have a great legacy when it comes spin bowling but I wouldn’t want to take it as a pressure. It’s an opportunity to showcase what I have and contribute in a few victories this season. Accuracy as a bowler is mandatory. As a bowler if you are not accurate, you will not get wickets. That is something that I always have to work on and be able to have in my armoury. Apart from that if I can add subtle variations that would be difficult for the batsmen to pick or notice, that will help me get a few extra wickets.

This is not a comparision but there is a lot of similarity to Anil Kumble when it comes to your bowling style…

Anil sir has been my role model since my childhood. Even when I didn’t bowl too much in age-group tournaments like under-14 and stuff, I used to copy him whenever I bowled. That’s become natural for me now though people still say I copy him! That aside, we definitely interacted a lot at Mumbai Indians and I know I can approach him any time if I have to. Technically he didn’t advise me much but tactic-wise yes -- like staying ahead of the batsmen, outthinking them and stuff like that.

You are a lot lucky because you also got to work with Rahul Dravid (with India A)...

I don’t have words to express to be honest. They (Kumble and Dravid) are so approachable and so humble… At first I thought whether I can really go and speak to them, I had a lot of hesitation approaching them like can I ask them something, would my questions be too silly for them, are they actually going to speak to me? But they made me so comfortable and told me things that I had no idea about. Both being my idols and being able to work with both of them, it’s an indescribable feeling.

Karnataka completed a double-treble (Ranji Trophy, Irani Cup and Vijay Hazare Trophy) in your first two seasons and then failed to make even the knockouts. What was the lesson leant from an individual and team’s point of view as well?
 
Personally, no one likes losing… The first two years (after my debut) results went our way and last year was probably one of those years that Karnataka didn’t click. We have all been putting in the effort, our preparations have already begun, we are like one family and we are looking forward to our first match which is soon after the Karnataka Premier League. There is a lot of positive energy, whether we win or lose, everyone knows his role. We all want to get back to winning ways and as long as we are in the right mindsets, the results should go in our favour.

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