Ahead of an important phase of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 remainder, two of the Rajasthan Royals players — all-rounder Shreyas Gopal and leg spinner KC Cariappa, who have not had much competitive cricket under their belts in recent months, are all geared up to take their side to the playoffs in the UAE.
Speaking ahead of the tournament, Shreyas said, “I think there are two ways of looking at the break in the IPL season. For people who weren’t doing all that well including myself, I think it was a chance to put on the thinking cap and see what modifications and improvements could be made. Whereas, for people who had been doing well, the first two teams in the table for that instance, it puts a break on them and they’ll now have to restart, so puts everyone on level pegging.”
Meanwhile, for 27-year-old Cariappa, the season has come as a chance at redemption, after he had been away from cricket for a while. “It was a very depressing period for me when I was not part of the Karnataka team earlier this year. I did well last year in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, but after that, things became bad for me,” said the leg spinner.
“I was just roaming around in Bengaluru and my fitness had taken a toll, but that is when Zubin (Bharucha) sir called me to ask to come for the IPL trials. I was shocked that someone is asking me to come for trials because I was lost almost for one year and weighed around 95kgs then. However, I went for it and bowled well,” added Cariappa.
“Zubin sir then called me and said, ‘I’ve been following you since 2015, but what is wrong with you? What is wrong with your fitness? We like your bowling but you have to get your fitness right.’ And that was the moment when I found the motivation again, and I worked really hard to get back into shape. So I’m really thankful to him and to the Rajasthan Royals franchise for showing faith in me. I feel that I’m back on my feet because of them and now it’s time to repay that faith on the field,” expressed an emotional Cariappa.
Shreyas, on the other hand, has been consistently featuring both in the IPL and in the domestic circuit, and wants to keep everything simple. “I think it’s more about the kind of mind space I’ve been in – the way I’m bowling, batting, fielding, and also how I’m feeling. I want to keep my work ethic high, but also realize that it’s going to be a long season with bubble life again, so I want to be present in the now, and remain simple with my process.”
The 28-year-old had played all 14 matches for the Royals in the 2020 season which was held in the UAE, and the all-rounder is again looking at using his experience in the gulf nation. “We played last year around the same time, so we have been witness to the conditions at all three places. We know the strengths in terms of length of the boundaries, etc. And as the tournament progresses, the pitches get a bit slower and are good batting wickets at the start. So we’ll be backing ourselves to do really well in these conditions and execute our plans,” stated Gopal who has 48 wickets in 47 IPL matches.
Calling the upcoming season as one of the most crucial of his life, Cariappa said that he will use his opportunities to make a case for the Indian team. “I have been training really consistently during the off season, and it (the upcoming season) is very important because I’ve been waiting for a big opportunity for a long time, and every year I’ve been getting only a few matches, and sometimes they go well, sometimes they go bad. But if I get an opportunity again, I just want to do well and, in my head, I tell myself that I should be in the Indian team – I feel every cricketer aspires to play for his country and so do I.”
Lastly, adding that two fellow Karnataka and India legends have inspired him, Shreyas Gopal added, “My favourite batter was always Rahul Dravid, and bowler was Anil Kumble. I tried imitating Anil sir’s action during childhood, and a part of it is still there in my action I think.”
“When I first met him during my Mumbai (Indians) days, he told me about the importance of having a fierce body language, mindset, and then let the skill set take over. I think ever since I’ve tried having that burn and desire in me, and I’m always willing to bowl the hard overs, and be there for the team in those tough situations. Meanwhile, Rahul sir is a lot calmer, but if you look into his eyes, he’s a fierce competitor as well,” signed off Gopal.