Washington Sundar’s sterling show, the 3-22 against Bangladesh in the Nidahas Trophy 2018, made him the one to watch out for in India’s subsequent series. But just when the Tamil Nadu all-rounder would have dreamt about playing at the hallowed Lord’s turf on India’s tour to England, he faced a football injury. Sundar could not play international cricket for close to eight months, until he was finally recalled for the away series against West Indies in August 2019
Speaking to Cricket.com, Sundar recalled his injury layoff, saying it was a really difficult phase. “It was really, really difficult. Never thought I'd be in such place. Probably it was a phase that I had to experience and get through in life. But I am blessed to have the kind of family I have, they were very supportive and took so much care of me. My sister was always with me 24/7 and made sure everything went right with me. Blessed to have gotten through the phase, thanks to the efforts of my physio Thulasi Ram and trainer Rajinikath.”
Since the comeback against West Indies, the 20-year-old has played all of India’s T20I series until now. This includes series against South Africa, Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka. During this period, he has bowled on all sorts of pitches, from the spin-friendly Chepauk to the swing-conducive Wankhede. Finger spinners have slightly less variations than wrist spinners, but the right-arm offbreak bowler says that he doesn’t think too much about the conditions and just sticks to the basics. “Little more variations you need to bowl at wickets like Wankhede, like yorkers in different lines and of course the change of pace. Every pitch will not be conducive to how I bowl."
Sundar usually bowls in the first six overs, but says that he doesn’t set himself any specific bowling plans. Whatever the situation demands is what he tries to do. “Nothing like whether I go for wickets or try to be defensive and restrict boundaries. It's all about what the team needs and the situation demands. Definitely willing to flight deliveries and look for wickets if that is what situation demands out of me.”
“Sometimes the first two balls can go for a six. It is important to make a good comeback and finish the next four balls well. Sometimes that's the kind of start batsmen will expect to go big in an over, so it is important to not give them too big a run in the over,” he explains.
For Sundar, a go-for-all-balls batsman is more difficult to bowl to than the one who waits for the bad balls, because the former requires the bowler to do a lot of planning. “Someone who's going for everything is probably slightly more difficult because execution has to be spot on and also the planning.”
Sundar says that bowling in the powerplays excites him. But if he were to bowl to the openers with the new ball, there would be a little more homework needed. “Plans are kinda different for each batsman, and it is important to do the homework and preparation right. And more importantly to enjoy the stage that I've been blessed to experience irrespective of the ball I bowl with.”
Largely seen as a bowling all-rounder, Sundar’s claim to fame was actually his batting. During his India Under-19 days, Sundar was primarily known as a left-handed opener. On his Ranji Trophy debut at the age of 16, he once again opened the innings and constructed a well-thought innings of 40 runs. Over the years, Sundar has batted at almost every position in domestic cricket, and is largely seen as a floater. He says that he had always liked to be a batsman who could do well in any position demanded of him.
“I'd like to be the batsman who bats at positions where the team wants me to bat contribute, win games for the team. It is important to adapt to different positions and play to what the team and situation demands and take things forward.”
His big-hitting is also something that has been seen in flashes both in domestic and international cricket. Sundar has a strike rate of 200 in the 21 T20Is he has played for India so far. He says that the more he faces different kind of bowlers, the better he gets.
“It's all about getting used to playing big shots against different kind of bowlers, exploring different areas in the ground. It's the feel of getting things right with body and processes going.”
The Chennai-born spinner has played under the leadership of Virat Kohli in both the IPL and Team India, and has credited the skipper’s aggression for improving as a cricketer. “He's very aggressive on the field and plays with lot of intensity, and that's one of the things I've learnt from him. It has helped me get better as a cricketer. He generally comes up with few ideas whenever he senses anything about the opposition or the batsman. He's very approachable and expects players to put in everything on the field and be really sharp and smart in all aspects. That has helped me perform well,” the Royal Challengers Bangalore player says.
He didn’t forget to acknowledge head coach Ravi Shastri’s inputs too, saying that there is a lot a youngster can learn from the former cricketer.
“Ravi Shastri has told me a lot of things that has helped me grow as a cricketer and any youngster would love to have him in his side. Room for learning is just way too much when a youngster plays under him, he shares all his knowledge and puts things very simple and easy for a player.”
Sundar is just 22 internationals old yet, but has figured out the way to his future in the Indian Team. “Just work hard and stay calm,” he concludes.