New Delhi: It is difficult to expect that selectors would ring in changes when an Indian cricket team wins a series 3-0 on Australian soil which is precisely the reason why Pawan Negi is "pleasantly surprised" after knowing about his selection for the T20 series against Sri Lanka.
"I will not say that I am shocked as I have been performing well in the limited-over format. But it would be wrong to say that I am not surprised as I did not expect to get a chance in a squad which has won a T20 series 3-0. Now that I am in the team, I would like to make full use of the opportunity if I happen to get a game," the diminutive left-arm spin bowling all-rounder said on Monday.
Ask him about what has been the turning point of his career, he replied: "It has to be my performance in the 2014 Champions League T20 final — for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) — against Kolkata Knight Riders where I got five wickets. A Man of the match award in a match with all international players around, it gave self belief that I can play for India.
"Not to forget the kind of support that Mahendra Singh Dhoni provided. He once told me that at this level, the main criteria would be ability to do well consistently," said the 23-year-old from Delhi.
In fact, Dhoni had summoned Negi a few months back in Delhi when he wanted to hit a few balls at the National Stadium.
"When you get a supportive captain who tells you not to be frightened after being hit for six, your confidence automatically increases. In the CSK dressing room, Dhoni would tell me exactly what his plan was for a particular batsman. In his mind, he is so clear as to what he wants from his bowler. I believe post my stint with CSK, my clarity about my own bowling has increased."
With Ravindra Jadeja in the team, Negi's chance will only come if he the senior Saurashtra spinner is rested or is injured and he knows it fully well.
"I know fully well as to what I should be expecting. My job is to remain ready and soak in as much information as possible as there are so many great players in that dressing room. I think my perspective as a cricketer has changed after I got a chance to play for CSK alongside Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum," said Negi, who scored 173 runs at a strike rate of 173 and took six wickets for Delhi, in the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Negi still calls himself a specialist left-arm spinner who loves "to hit sixes".
"I am still a left-arm spinner first. Getting wickets is my top priority and that is why I am picked in any playing XI. But since bowling alone is not a criteria these days, I started putting more effort in my batting also.
"My method of batting at the nets is simple. I never do traditional knocking. I always tell my coaches that give me a match simulation. I set imaginary targets of 40 from 24 balls or 33 from 18 balls. Accordingly, I decide the number of sixes.
I need to hit and also thinking about the possible field placements. This particular training method has come good in match situations," concluded Negi.