Vijay Shankar has often been ridiculed for his below-par and often match-losing performances, but things took a different turn in the IPL 2023 as the Tamil Nadu all-rounder made himself indispensable to the Gujarat Titans set-up. His 51 runs off 24 balls on Saturday helped Gujarat Titans to victory against KKR, demonstrating how far he has come in his career despite injuries being a constant part of his career.
The turnaround started in the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy, in which Shankar scored 483 runs at an average of 53.66, including three centuries and two half-centuries. In the current IPL, he has 199 runs already from six games at an average of 49.75 and a mind-boggling strike rate of 165.
"Before the IPL, I was out for five to six months with injury. I came back and did well in the Ranji Trophy. I changed a lot of things and it worked for me. I changed my diet and not just physically, but even to the mental aspect of my game which I felt was important. All that together and with the team here, the management here helped me to get out of it properly. Happy that it is coming out good," Shankar said in the post-match press conference.
"It's too far from here. Mentally I'm not really thinking about all that because that is not in my hands. All I can do is win matches for my team. That is the only satisfaction that I can take. If that (World Cup selection) happens, well and good. Even if it doesn't happen, cricket is something we all love and that's why we continue playing. No expectations, just want to enjoy my cricket."
Yesterday, in the post-match interview, Gujarat Titans skipper Hardik Pandya spoke highly about Shankar, stating the world is going to hear a lot of him in the future. Reciprocating the mutual respect that both have for each other, Vijay Shankar stated that players trust Pandya because he takes up responsibilities.
"Hardik is really aggressive. He wanted to do it for the team. He wants to come out on top in difficult situations. In the game against MI, we needed Rohit Sharma's wicket and he got it for us. Against LSG, he went upto number three on a difficult wicket, got a 60. As captain, he is taking up responsibilities and that's the best thing to do. When you're captain, it's about showing the team that this is how it's done. He is someone who is doing that and that is why the other players are really trusting him, and doing whatever the team asks us to do."
One of the striking aspects of Gujarat's journey in the last two years is the way they have played percentage cricket to come good. The likes of David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha and Vijay Shankar played with a sense of freedom. Shedding light on that, Shankar said it the team atomosphere made it possible for the players to express themselves.
"The team management plays a major role in keeping everyone in a very good space. We stick together and the amount of practice that we do is unbelievable. It's not that other teams don't do but we keep doing it for hours and hours. It helps us to get out of difficult situations and there will be difficult situations in IPL and T20 cricket. It's about being together and communicating properly."