AUSTRALIA TOUR OF INDIA, 2019
Cricbuzz Staff •
Vijay Shankar dismissed Stoinis and Zampa to close out the game for India. © AFP
As Marcus Stoinis looked to drag the low-scoring run-chase in Nagpur towards the very end, India had a bowling dilemma. A 15-run over from Kuldeep Yadav in the 43rd gave Australia what looked like a fantastic opportunity to level the series. Vijay Shankar, who bowled just three overs for 22 runs in Hyderabad, was only used for one early on in the second game in which he gave away 13 runs.
Around the 46th over, India needed a quick decision. Virat Kohli contemplated bringing the medium pacer back in, so Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami could’ve been preserved for the last four overs. A meeting ensued, with the brain reserves of the side – Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni – who felt it was wiser to throw the kitchen sink at Australia and hope for wickets to cut off Australia’s hopes.
The decision added up, considering Stoinis was still in the middle and Australia needed 28 off the last 30 deliveries. The move was golden as Bumrah did what he does best in the situation – two wickets and a run in the over.
By the time Bumrah finished his final over in the 48th, it was very clear what Stoinis was up to. He saw off the pacer in another one-run over – a crucial single off the final ball – to ensure there was still a chance going into the last two. The target of 20 from the last 12 was down to 11 off the final over, with Kedar Jadhav also said to be keen on turning hero for the day. But India turned to the man with figures of 1-0-13-0 until that point.
The call was ballsy, but Shankar had already visualised it – the idea of grabbing his moment of redemption crossed his mind around the 40th over.
“It was an opportunity to redeem myself after the expensive over I bowled. I was literally waiting for this opportunity, wanted to bowl under pressure because only if I deliver, they will trust me. I was up for the challenge. I was telling myself that I am bowling the final over and defend the score, just prepared myself a bit,” Shankar told in an interview with the broadcaster.
“I was preparing myself after the 40th over. I thought I should be mentally ready to go and bowl and defend 10 runs an over. I was just clear about what I have to do. I think those things helped me when I came onto bowl. I didn’t have pressure, to be honest,” he added.
Stoinis was the only reason Australia found themselves within touching distance of a win despite Bumrah’s late devastation. And he was there again, taking strike and getting ready to heroically heave over mid-wicket. Only, Shankar managed to beat the big swing of a bat with a length ball that nipped back in a touch and struck Stoinis’s back leg in line. The all-rounder reviewed in futility, and ended up leaving Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa to get 11 off five. A delivery in the blockhole to the wildly-swinging Zampa was enough to close out the game.
“When Bumrah came and told me it’s reversing a bit, just trust yourself to bowl the hard length. When a top bowler like him comes and tells me… bounce also was a little low than normal wicket. To hit the right length was a challenge at that situation under pressure. Good thing is I was a little clear in the mind,” Shankar said.
“It’s about staying clear mentally. I wanted to just stick to the basics, hit the stumps from a hard length as there was a bit of reverse. When you play for the country, you have to be ready to do what the team needs. I always say to myself to keep working on all aspects of my game so that when the opportunity arrives, I am ready to grab it,” Shankar said.
In the backdrop of a possible World Cup call-up, Shankar made his case with the bat too after walking in at No.5 ahead of MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav. By his own admission, Shankar has tried to remain a lot more calmer and level-headed following the harrowing experience of the Nidahas Trophy final where he played out four dot balls in the 18th over of a tense chase – that Dinesh Karthik would go on to win in dramatic fashion. And it showed as he built India’s innings from early trouble in the company of his captain. Shankar showed a tendency for pinching singles on the up-and-down pitch, a trait often talked up by Kohli while speaking of the art of building an ODI innings. The pair added 81 crucial runs before an unlucky run out ended Shankar’s stay on a 41-ball 46.
“Batting with someone like him [Kohli] is always special. Batting in my second ODI, he was helping me with the few things. They were trying to hit the pads. Even when the spinners bowled, they tried to vary the speed. We were concentrating on turning the strike over. We wanted to score much straighter and give ourselves a chance to get a good score. That’s a great thing I learn, batting with him helped me to up my intent. If I can bat with that intent every time, I can get better as a batsman everyday.
“I think I was someone who used to bat up the order. Due to different reasons, I started batting at 7 and that became a permanent slot for me. In the India A series I batted No.5, I did pretty well there and that gave me the confident. When I bat in the middle overs, I learnt that I should take my take my time, look to play as many singles as possible and get odd boundaries,” he said.