Mumbai: 1/36, 5/14, 4/20, 1/14, 1/11 and 2/32. Fourteen wickets in six matches at an average of 9.07, economy rate of 3.84 and strike rate of 14.1 are outstanding figures, no matter what level or form of cricket one is playing. They look even better if they have come in a World Cup. Anukul Roy did just that as he became the joint highest wicket taker during India’s triumphant ICC 2018 Under-19 World Cup campaign.
While all went smoothly for the young left-arm spinner, who also is a more than handy batsman, at one point, he had doubts whether he will be on that flight to New Zealand. An ankle injury had almost cut short his dream of joining Prithvi Shaw and the boys in New Zealand, but the team management backed him and he repaid Rahul Dravid, coaching staff and the selectors’ faith with the rich form on the highest stage of Under-19 cricket.
On his return from New Zealand, Anukul spoke on a variety of topics – from his performance in the World Cup, his aims and how the interactions with MS Dhoni helped him. Here are the excerpts:
Q) You were one of the leading wicket takers in the tournament, with lowest bowling average. So, what did you do differently that the others did not or could not?
A) I focus on how the wicket is behaving. If it’s a flat wicket, I have to adjust my lengths accordingly. So, on many occasions, I try and bowl defensively, set one-side dominated fields and dry the runs, it increases my chances to take wickets. So, I don’t know about the others, but I stick to this (approach). And sir loag bhee bolate rehte the (coaches also used to tell me), what is happening. At times, there were some problems over where to bowl and where not to bowl. But one has to manage as these are the big matches. So, practice karate rehnaa padataa thaa taake kuch idhar udhar naa ho (So, I kept on practicing to avoid any plans going haywire).
Q) In the final, you managed to choke runs in the middle-overs even when Jonathan Merlo was playing his shots like sweeps and reverse sweeps. So, do you change your line and lengths accordingly or stick to your pre-decided strategy when batsmen start playing out-of-the-box shots?
A) In the beginning, it was about line and length, but when he started playing shots, there were some runs. But I kept trying and then usne galti kiyaa and out bhee hua (he committed a mistake and got out). But one need not think much, batsmen jyaada sochate hai (batsmen think a lot). Unko agar single milataa hai, toh chance kam rehataa hai out hone kaa. Par boundary agar aate rehtaa hai, toh unko out karnekaa chance jyaadaa rehtaa hai. So, woh jyaadaa strike bhee nahee change kar paate aur set bhee nahee ho paate. So, boundary se koi dikkat nahee hotaa tha, par who single le rahe the. Wicket thodaa batting wicket thaa. Par fielders nee bhee support achha kiyaa (If they keep getting singles, the chances of them getting out are less. But if they are hitting boundaries, there are more opportunities to take wickets as they are not able to rotate strike and don’t settle down. Hence, there is no pressure even if they hit a four. (But) in the final, they were taking singles and the pitch too was batsman-friendly. But there was a lot of support from the fielders).
Q) New Zealand conditions are generally swing-friendly. So, how much of a confidence booster it was to bowl well in such conditions?
A) I could not play in the Asia Cup (in November 2017) as I was injured. So, it was difficult to bowl the way I used to bowl before. But I had a good practice and (played) practice matches. In the first game (against Australia in the World Cup), I did not have a good outing. But I got to learn about what’s happening in the games and how I needed to go about my plan in regards with length, position of my bowling hand etc. It is vital. New Zealand main jyaada paataa wickets hee milataa hai (In New Zealand, there are more flat tracks). So, it was clear in my head that we are not going to get spin-friendly pitches in New Zealand).
Q) There were three left-arm spinners – you, Abhishek Sharma and Shiva Singh – in the team during the final. So, was there any particular strategy that you three decided to follow?
A) We decided to bowl in partnership. If one is not conceding runs from one end, the other won’t concede many from the other end as well. It builds pressure on the batsmen and then they try and do different things and that increases our chances to get wickets. So, the three of us decided to bowl as a bunch. If one is bowling dot balls, the other will also do the same. So, it helped us a lot.
Q) How did the inputs of bowling coach Paras Mhambrey help you?
A) He helped us a lot during the practice. How to bowl, what to bowl and from where to bowl and how it will have an impact, how to bowl in the slog overs, and what your hand position should be etc. It is very important.
Q) What’s your next target?
A) The next target is to do well for Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Q) Did you get a chance to speak with MS Dhoni after the win?
A) No. Abhee tak mile bhee nahee toh (baat nahee hui). Wo jaanate hai toh, woh saamane se milate hai tab baat hotee hai. Woh bataate rehte hai ke disciplined raho. Achha bowling chalate rehtaa hai toh bolate hai body lagaaoge toh chhotaa giranekaa chance kam hogaa. Toh wo cheez kaa hame bahot help huaa, aur chhotaa bhee abhee kam gir rahaa hai. Toh achha helpful lag rahaa hai. Confident lag rahaa hai. (We have not met or spoken after the win. But he knows me so whenever we meet in person, he keeps telling me to stay disciplined. You are bowling well. If you put more body into your deliveries, the chances of bowling short will also go down. So, that advice helped me a lot and I am bowling less number of short deliveries. So, I am feeling good, I am feeling confident).