From being retired out for not sufficiently accelerating (43, 31b) in Gujarat Titans’ Qualifier 2 against Mumbai Indians, to scoring a 47-ball 96 against Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League final, a lot changed for Sai Sudharsan in under 72 hours.
In a stunning transformation, the Tamil Nadu batter played the best innings of his nascent IPL career – Monday was only his 13th match – that nearly carried GT to its second title in as many years. It was also the highest for an uncapped Indian player in an IPL final.
It didn’t matter that he came at the fall of Shubman Gill, the most prized wicket for any opponent playing GT. The 21-year-old handled the pressure remarkably well. He was watchful for a few overs before shifting into a gear none thought he possessed.
“Last game, I felt a lot of pressure,” said Sai Sudharsan, referring to the match against MI. “After that the realisation came that being calmer was better and that I had the ability to do it.”
“When Shubman got out, the idea was to take it deeper and at the same time keep checking on the scoring. I took the right chances and took it deep,” he added.
While the shift in Sai Sudharsan’s approach between matches seems like a flick of the switch, his work on strengthening the mental aspects of his game during the pre-season may have played a part.
“To be precise, it was more mental [work],” said Sai Sudharsan, when asked about the areas of improvement he had targeted. “How to get ready, how to be aware of situations and decide what to do in which situation… I have worked on all of that.”
To be sure, Sai Sudharsan is not yet a T20 batter in the purest sense. He still oozes classical elegance and it seemed apt that he came on as an Impact Substitute for the injured Kane Williamson in the season-opener against CSK.
But Monday’s innings showed that he could score in very many ways. May be thinktanks in the future will bat an eyelid before contemplating retiring him out.
“Personally it is worrying,” Sai Sudharsan said about batters being withdrawn. “But it is a team decision. The way our batters were batting, after positions 3, 4 and 5, they have been explosive. So it is for the team’s cause and I am 100% with it.”