Having Kohli, de Villiers for fun the Shreyas way

Having Kohli, de Villiers for fun the Shreyas way

Leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal has had an excellent season with Rajasthan Royals. AFP

Once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence and thrice? It's a habit. And Shreyas Gopal seems to have made it a habit of dismissing Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.

On a rain-truncated Tuesday at the Chinnaswamy Stadium where the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s batting giants appeared poised to massacre the Rajasthan Royals’ attack, Shreyas spun the duo out off successive balls to snatch the momentum from the home side which had raced to 35 in the first nine balls of a five-overs-a-side match.

This was the third time that the leg-spinner had cut short Kohli and de Villiers’ stay in as many matches, stretching from their clash in 2018 here. He accounted for them in Jaipur in the first match of this season and in the return game at his home ground, the 25-year-old repeated the feat before sending back Marcus Stoinis to complete his maiden IPL hat-trick.

“I hope the moment (dismissing both Kohli and de Villiers) comes again, I know I sound a little greedy now, but I would definitely take it," Shreyas had told DH on the eve of the match. “Obviously, it’s a great feeling. It doesn’t come every day to us. Again, you just need to enjoy those moments.”

For a brief period, that moment did appear a distant possibility when Kohli sent him for 6, 4 and 2 off the first three balls of his lone over. Shreyas, however, didn’t lose heart. He had Kohli’s number the very next ball before inducing another false shot from de Villiers.

"I was shocked actually, I would be lying if I say I knew I was getting them out," said Shreyas about dismissing the pair in Jaipur. "You really don’t have any plans for such batsmen and when you do get them on your day, I think you need to rejoice that moment, enjoy that moment. Obviously, it’s one of the better moments in my short cricketing career so far, and hope I have many more moments like that to cherish.

"Having said that, those couple of googlies (in Jaipur to dismiss Kohli and de Villiers) -- the googly I bowled to Virat was based on gut feel. I really didn’t imagine it going through his bat and pad. I thought probably make him work for a single or block it back to me. The sign of dismissal wasn’t really there in my mind but once I got him, I knew I need to try and put in as much pressure as possible on the batsmen coming in," he explained.

Shreyas says he enjoys bowling the googly but he knows he shouldn't become predictable. "People have asked me about my googly, but I just go with gut feel. It’s not like I use it in every match or every over. There will be some wickets where I don’t feel like using it because I feel it won’t be that effective. Yeah, it’s very similar to what every other bowler bowls."

With 18 sticks from 13 matches, Shreyas is only behind this IPL's highest wicket-taker Kagiso Rabada of Delhi Capitals after the RCB-RR match. It's an excellent season by any standard but he remains modest.    

"There have been matches where I have gone for some runs and there have been matches that I have bowled really well and tight," he noted about the season. "T20 cricket is always like that, (there are) always going to be ups and downs. You are never going to be able to bowl four overs, (give away) not many runs and take three wickets in all 14 matches but so far I am pretty okay with what has happened. I am glad that some of those games that I did well, we won those games. I think that’s more important," he offered.

Over the course of the season, Shreyas has emerged as the lead spinner of Royals, pipping his State-mate K Gowtham who was the first choice spinner for the Jaipur franchise. But the responsibility, Shreyas emphasised, hasn't added any extra pressure. 

"Honestly, the only person who can put pressure on me is myself," he remarked. "Obviously, it’s a new challenge for me. It’s something very exciting, but I would look at the fun side of it. I don’t want to see it like it puts extra pressure on me as a lead spinner as such. It’s a platform where I am very fortunate to have expressed myself, just go out there and enjoy. I don’t think you need to be thinking too much," he reasoned.

The all-rounder, who also essayed a couple of crucial cameos with the bat, admitted that a "decent" domestic season for Karnakata is helping him to perform to the level he has been in IPL. In the Ranji Trophy, he scored 524 runs and picked 32 wickets -- both second highest for his team for the season.   

"Coming into the IPL with a decent first-class season was always helpful," he pointed out. "It’s obviously a six-month toiling that we go through before we come into the IPL. So, you bowl a lot of overs, bat a lot of hours, field a lot of days… All that you pull into these matches. When you see that kind of effort and that kind of preparation that you have put before the first-class season and when all that rewards you in this way, it’s very satisfying. You give yourself a pat on the back and say well done."

Indeed, he can afford a pat on his back, especially after his stirring run on Tuesday.

DH News Service