On cloud nine after his Indian Premier League success against top batsmen such as Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, Kings XI Punjab young medium pacer Sandeep Sharma has credited Virender Sehwag for helping him become a better cricketer and described him as a "gem of a person".
"Viru pa is an amazing person! In the nets, we inform the batsman of our hypothetical field and bowl to them. Sometimes, when I don't bowl to my field or do something wrong and Viru pa happens to see it, he stops his own batting and comes to talk to me. He tells me exactly where I went wrong and goes out of his way to help me become a better cricketer," Sandeep was quoted as saying by IPL official website.
"He is really a gem of a person. I am so lucky to be playing in Kings XI Punjab this year with Viru pa in my team. He has been my favourite batsman since I was a kid and now I get to play alongside him and learn from him," he added. (Also read: Kings XI Punjab - the 'comprehensive' winners of IPL in UAE)
On Laxmipathy Balaji's inputs to him, Sandeep said, "Bala paaji has been really helpful when it comes to preparing me for situations where I might get hit for runs and will have to maintain my cool. This is his seventh IPL and he has faced a lot of difficult situations while bowling. Talking to him about it will keep me better mentally and physically equipped to face such situations when they arrive."
The 20-year-old Punjab pacer finished with impressive figures of three for 15 to help the Kings XI continue their winning streak with a facile five-wicket win against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday.
Sandeep said it was Kohli and South Africa's AB de Villiers who were the most difficult batsmen in the RCB rank to bowl at.
"Virat with the new ball and de Villiers with the old (are the two most difficult to bowl to). Virat has a very good technique to play the new ball and batting one-down for India, he has the experience of handling some of the best new-ball bowlers in the world," he said.
"De Villiers, on the other hand, is a master at plundering runs in the death overs with the old ball. He is very unpredictable and you can never tell where he is going to hit you next," added Sandeep. (Related: Punjab skipper Bailey impressed with his team's bowling)
Sandeep with his efforts of 4-0-21-3 and 3-1-15-3 in the games against Kolkata Knight Riders and RCB, respectively, has won successive Man of the Match awards, and the youngster felt that he was swinging the ball well.
"I have been getting the new ball and I am swinging the ball well. The one thing that all my coaches have told me is that it's okay if you don't have too much pace. If you can swing the ball, it will create problems for the best batsmen in the world. That's what I have kept in mind so far and have concentrated on my swing," explained Sandeep.
Elaborating on using his stock ball, one that shapes away from the left-hander, effectively against a few RCB batsmen, Sandeep said, "I knew RCB have a lot of lefties and so during the practice, I concentrated solely on getting my stock ball right. The left-handers often have a problem with the away-going deliveries and it was my plan to bowl maximum balls to the left-handers. I am glad I executed it well."
Sandeep said apart from swing, he had been working on other aspects of his bowling as well.
"Mentally, till now I have been focused on working on my swing. Now, I have started to also work on variations like yorkers, slower ones, slow bouncers, etc. which are needed if you're bowling in the death overs and when the ball has stopped swinging. I have improved a lot since the last year when it comes to bowling with the old ball," he pointed out.
He was all praise for Mitchell Johnson for mentoring him.
"Johnson and I are completely different type of bowlers, so there isn't much I can take from him technically. But what I have been learning immensely from him is how to prepare yourself for the match in your practice sessions, how to conduct yourself confidently on the field and how to plan your moves based on the batsmen and situation," said Sandeep.
"For instance, in our last match (against KKR), I was bowling my last over and was hit for boundaries off the first two balls. Mitchell came to me and said that the bowling plan and the field that I was using was for a top-order batsman and it will not work against the tailenders."
"He asked me to bowl straight length balls from over the wicket instead of using variations and trying to create angles. He knew that the lower-order batsmen will find it tough to hit the simple balls and that will get me their wickets. He was right," Sandeep added.