back icon


‘Dravid Sir suggested the switch from batter to a spinner’: Shreyas Gopal

Last updated on 22 Feb 2022 | 10:36 AM
Follow Us
‘Dravid Sir suggested the switch from batter to a spinner’: Shreyas Gopal

In an exclusive interview with, Shreyas Gopal narrates his cricketing journey, the influence of Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid and his latest move to SRH

Many congratulations on being picked by SRH in the IPL Mega Auction. How does it feel moving to the Orange brigade from the Royals’ pink?

I’m extremely excited to join Sunrisers Hyderabad, I have always followed them closely, the brand of cricket that they play, it is one of the franchises that you want to be a part of. It is a mix of exciting youngsters and unbelievable support staff, I haven’t met them yet, only heard great things about them. Super excited to be playing for them, under them and to be learning from them up close. 

Rajasthan (Royals) was great, the last four years was memorable. They gave me a break in 2018. In 2022, I’m rearing to go with the Orange brigade. 

How excited are you to play under the leadership of Kane Williamson?

Kane (Williamson) is someone that I loved watching, I do have a few Kiwi friends, who have told me unbelievable things about him. The instincts that he has as a captain is something that you want as a bowler. It is an absolute delight to have that in a captain, that kind of vibe, backing and personality. It will give you even more confidence to you as a bowler, he’s done an incredible job for the franchise in the past.

He understands the bowlers, that is what I have understood from what my friends have told me, so I’m really excited to be playing under him. Can’t wait to win games for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

It has been quite a ride for Shreyas Gopal, the cricketer in IPL, talk us through that

There are quite a few highs and lows, some of the highs are the hat-trick (2019), winning two titles with the Mumbai Indians. Qualifying with the Rajasthan Royals in 2018, and just some unbelievable moment of friendships and memories that will remain with me lifetime. Those are some things that I will cherish and take.

Obviously with the highs, there will be some lows, some of the things will be not having the best of 2020/21 IPL, sometimes not qualifying to the knock-out stage (2019). As much as you play well as a bowler, you always want to see your team fighting for that trophy, reaching that stage. I was honestly upset that we didn’t qualify during that season.

Personally, I think I could have put in more efforts, not saying that I didn’t try but maybe I could have tried a lot harder and persistent. Things didn’t fall in place at that time, you come with a lot of highs and lows. You just need to accept it and move on, work harder on the things that didn’t work out. 

From a middle-order batter (No.4) to assuming the role of Karnataka’s lead spinner, how did all of that happen? Was it at the nets?

Well, actually that switch (becoming a spinner) was suggested by Rahul (Dravid) sir, I think in 2011, where I got a couple of hundreds, in age-group games. When I met him, he told me that I’m giving you a bat today but I would love to give you a pair of shoes, I think you need to be bowling a lot more. That is something that will take you forward. I was immediately taken aback, I scored a lot of runs, your role model says this, it was a bit of ‘oh god’ kind of feeling. 

I think that’s why he is Rahul Dravid and he knew that leg-spin was a way forward for me and three-four years later, I was making my Ranji debut for Karnataka. I batted at No.4 in that game (clash against Mumbai), I got out first-ball but with the ball I picked up a fifer, that is where things started turning around for me.

From then on, the switch was evident and where I would be placed and how I would be placed was certain. Then IPL happened, India ‘A’ happened. When I heard it (bowling leg-spin) first, it wasn’t the most pleasing thing but Dravid sir knows things more than us. I’m happy that I took the advice from him and bowling just took over from there.

The best part is I enjoy bowling, leg-spin is hard in comparison to some of the other bowling things, it gives you that much of a chance of being in the game. You are always in the game, that’s how I have looked at it.

Your red-ball numbers has been amazing and there is this perception of Ranji wickets favouring spinners, is that true? What’s been the secret behind your success?

To be very honest, when I played my first Ranji Trophy season, we (Karnataka) didn’t get a lot of wickets that spun. The wickets were quick, it was made for the pacers. Half the wickets were taken by our pacers, we had a gun pace-bowling unit at that time - Vinay Kumar, S Aravind, Abhimanyu Mithun, Stuart Binny - and so many games I was the lone spinner in that squad. 

But you know there comes a time when you have to keep one end tight, you need to provide that breakthrough, that’s where wrist spin comes into play. Irrespective of the wicket, you get more purchase from the surface unlike other form of spinners. I only try to bowl my best deliveries, try to make it as hard as possible for them to make runs. I think the belief that Vinay (Kumar) had in me, was pretty tremendous. I was glad to get some of those wickets early on. 

Obviously, there are some wickets that do spin, you get a lot of wickets that are batter-friendly, so as a spinner, you got to be patient at that time. You have to able to bowl in tight channels, it just takes one mistake from the batter to get you that wicket and then you run through a side

That’s how momentum changes and that’s the beauty of red-ball cricket. This is the most fascinating thing how some teams are 320/2 and suddenly they are 324/5 or 324/6, and the game is already back with the bowling team. So those are the small things that we have learnt over last 7-8 years, something that as spinners, you know that you can always bring your team back into the game. It is just persistence and discipline in terms of bowling.

As a leg-spinner, how has cricket transformed in the white-ball format? And what are some of the hiccups wrist spinners face? 

Yeah, it is pretty evident that white-ball does give a lot of opportunities to wrist-spinners, you know. I think probably one of the biggest advantages we (wrist spinners) have is that we can spin it pretty well both ways. If you have a wrong-un, I think that’s a pretty added advantage. 

If you look at it, from control point of view, it is going to take a lot more (efforts). In terms of staying in the game, wrist spinners are crucial. If you're consistent enough and put in those efforts in the nets and practice and things like that.

And if you're consistent, I think it stands you the best chance because in white-ball format, the batman at some point of time has to go after you. And that's what you want as a spinner. You want the batman to keep coming at you and come hard at you.  So that gives you the best chance of getting him out. That sometimes plays into our favour, but having said that it is not like we don't get taken apart, we do get taken apart as well. So, it works both ways. 

What were your feelings about sharing the dressing room with superstars (MI) after the Ranji Trophy success?

Pretty surreal to be very honest. Firstly, I did not even expect to be getting an IPL contact back then. I think just a couple of days earlier, something like that around that time only I got the hat-trick in Irani Trophy. I spoke to Bajju (Harbhajan Singh) pa, and he was speaking to me about spin bowling and things. 

Around that time only was the Auction and I was picked. To be sharing the dressing room with you know the superstars, Sachin (Tendulkar) sir wasn’t playing then but to have him in the dressing room. To have Bajju pa, to have Anil (Kumble) sir and Michael Hussey, Rohit Sharma, these are the players we have grown up idolising and mesmerising about them. 

To be sharing the dressing room with them and you get to pick their brains on a daily basis and interact with them and understand how to get better at your sport. There was so much of learning that was there for the taking and it was up to me to make the most out of it. 

And I didn't expect to get picked firstly in the IPL, but I also happened to get a few games as well. So, you know that made it even better for me. And, you need to have great backing from your support stuff and from your captain, which I completely got, even in in my first season of IPL with MI. So, it was just a perfect moment for me and to express myself and to show that I can also belong.

How much of an impact does domestic competition(s) have an impact on player selection for the Indian Premier League?

Extremely important. I think that the Indian domestic cricket is really competitive and it's really hard. If you're really doing well over there, that means you are a good, you have it in you. I think the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy are the big stepping stones to getting an IPL contract. 

And everyone's seeing, like you have your scout coming and, and watching literally every match that you'll play over there. What's better motivation than performing in front of them and showing yourself that you are good enough to be playing at this level. So that way in that sense, those two tournaments are great in terms of that. 

Ranji trophy is a lot of people's favourites. I must say a lot of people keep saying that test cricket is dying, but if you ask us as players, we absolutely love playing test cricket. And it's something that gives us a lot of thrill. We want to go out there compete. It’s going take a lot out of efforts for us over five days or whatever, but it is why we play the game. If it was that easy, we wouldn't play it or everyone would play it.

We really love that and to see people doing well in this, in this tournament already, if you look at it, some of guys have got huge hundreds, double hundred and triple hundreds as well. It's great to see this. And yeah, very excited for this (Ranji) season as well.

Despite being so close to an India call-up, your time never came, share with us your feelings

You do want to play for selection and things, right. But that should be at the back of head. I think everyone wants to wear that Test cap, the Indian Jersey, the blue, the whites and that is everyone's dream, but for that, you need to do the fine things more accurately and precisely. 

I think you need to draw back your focus into the small aspect and not really focus about the selection because that could play on your mind at some point of time. So, you have to be able to get your focus back onto the present, probably put in that extra bit of work in the nets, in your mental preparation and understand the situation and adapt to different conditions.

I think all those things are stepping stones to donning the Indian cap. And that's something that I've been putting a lot of thought into: in terms of my nutrition, in terms of my fitness, I want to be one and a half or two times fitter than what I was say one and a half, two years ago, at least. 

And I'm kind of getting there, which I'm very happy about, but in terms of practice and in terms of skill as well, I want to get to the best possible bowler and batter that I could possibly be. So that that's where you want to go. And that's what the focus should be on.

As we explored earlier, you stint with RR, what are some of your interesting experiences from the camp?

Well, I think some of the most interesting things is how simple they keep cricket in their lifestyle. That was like an eye opener to me. At first, you would probably think that they have a lot of things going on and they do this, they do that. They do a hundred things, but at the end of the day, they want to keep it simple. 

All that matters for them is that state of mind and whether they're getting into good positions as a batsman, whether they're getting into good rhythm as a bowler, and whether they're in a good mental space as a cricketer in general. So, you know, just try and simplify it as much as you can. I think that's something that a lot of them spoke and emphasized on.

When you bowl in the nets, sometimes they just bat 10 minutes, sometimes they're batting two hours. It's just about your feel and players like Jofra (Archer), sometimes he's bowling, not more than 20 balls, sometimes he's bowling a slightly longer spell. It is just about your feel and at what time you feel, yes, I'm feeling comfortable now. 

And I feel that once the rhythm is back, you just want to take that confidence and keep repeating it and keep bringing it back into the next session and eventually into the competition. And, you know, just keeping it as simple as possible - that is something that is very underrated. But I think a lot of them stress and, and emphasize on these things.

You didn’t quite have a great last two seasons in the IPL, what are you looking forward to in the 2022 IPL season? Is it a mental change or a skill-based change?

It's obviously a bit of both - mental and skill based. As a spinner, we would want to be able to understand the batsmen’s strengths and weaknesses, try and to exploit weaknesses as much as you can try and hit those areas more. So, to be able to hit those areas more comes down to your skill. 

You need to be able to be skillful or confident enough to be bowling those areas. As a leg-spinner, one of the things that I've focused a little bit on is trying to spin the ball a little more. I have a good straighter one but am working on slightly bettering it. I know Googly as well. So, you know, just because you feel that your googly is a good, doesn't mean that you just rest at that.

You want to get better at it. You want to be spinning a little more, and from different lines. As a bowler, especially you want to keep evolving and you know, those are smaller and finer things that you want to be getting into. 

Those are small aspects that I've been tapping into. Also, my fitness, my bating, I have taken my batting a lot more serious. I want to be able to make a good impact when I get the bat in my hand. I want be able to contribute with both bat and ball basically. And I believe that I can do it. So why not? So those are small things that I've been putting a lot of focus in the last year or so. 

Related Article