Sandeep Sharma, IPL 2018, Sunrisers Hyderabad,
Sandeep Sharma © IANS

In 2017, Sandeep Sharma became the first bowler to dismiss Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers in the same innings. He was one of the soothing sights for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) during their tumultuous recent years. In 2014, he picked 18 wickets at 19.67 in Punjab’s campaign as they finished runners-up.

Sandeep has played IPL for five seasons. He is only 24 and has an enviable IPL record — 73 wickets from 57 matches at 22 and an economy rate of 7.74. Mind you, he bowls at the start and at death.      

His base price was in the VIVO IPL 2018 auction was a mere INR 50 lakhs. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) made the first bid. KXIP, for whom Sandeep had played till date, were desperate to bag him. A war of bids ensued…

After numerous raisings of banners from both camps, KKR made a bid of INR 2.8 crores. Just when they thought they had their man, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) entered the race and walked away with the cake.

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SRH emptied INR 3 crores from their purse to bag the services of the Punjab seamer. It was a surprise when KXIP used their Right-to-Match (RTM) for Mohit Sharma at INR 2.4 crores instead of going for Sandeep, their premier pacer in recent times.

From being the premier pacer at Mohali to being one of the artilleries in a robust pace armoury, Sandeep’s role has changed considerably with the switch of camps. Sandeep has welcomed the change. In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry, Sandeep opened up about the ‘welcoming change’, swing bowling, his respect for James Anderson, Kane Williamson’s leadership and more…

CricketCountry (CC): You had been with KXIP, your home side, for five years. You are now part of a new side. How has the change been? Has there been a difference in culture?

Sandeep Sharma (SS): I was with KXIP for 5 years. I had a fantastic time. I thank Punjab for giving me the opportunity. I was 19 when I joined them and got to showcase my talent.

As for my new team, there has been no major change as such as far as the team environment is concerned. These days most cricketers know each other. We all play a lot, whether in same teams and or opponents. Everything is run in a professional way.

CC: What are you looking forward to?

SS: What I looked forward was working with a separate set of coaches. There are always new things to learn. VVS Laxman is a legend of the game and I am honoured to take tips from him. So is Muttiah Muralitharan. There is so much knowledge to gain from these greats. Tom Moody is great help. [There have been] many positives due to the shift. Change is good. You need change at various junctures in your life.

CC: You are in same camp with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. How has been the experience? Are you exchanging notes? You two are perceived of having similar styles.

SS: It has been good. I have been talking to him. We may both be the same kind of bowler but the mindset is different while bowling. We have been sharing ideas. I am trying to learn from him and it is working well.

Note: Sandeep replaced Bhuvi in SRH’s second match this season. He justified the forced change by bagging figures of 4-0-25-2. Surprisingly, he has played just 1 out of SRH’s 4 matches.

CC: You have not started for SRH this season. Have you set any goals?

SS: Our team has done well. We have a good bowling attack. I want to do well whenever I get a chance and contribute to the wins. I want to keep it simple and learn as much as I can and do well when I get a chance.

CC: How big is David Warner’s absence this season? How do you think Kane Williamson has filled in as SRH’s captain?

SS: Warner is a big player no doubt, but I have not played under him so I cannot comment. Williamson has led New Zealand for a few years. He has experience. He is very good with bowling changes. He has plans in place. He has bowlers in mind for different batsmen. He does his homework very well.

CC: Once upon a time, Sandeep Sharma used to be a batsman. How did the story change?

SS: I used to be a batsman as I was not big enough [he wasn’t tall enough to be considered as a pacer]. I was 14 or 15 when my coach Munish Bali saw me bowl and realised that I had better talent as a pace bowler. I could swing the ball. He told me “you have better talent in bowling”. The rise started since and I played at various age groups before First-Class cricket and the 2012 U-19 World Cup. Then IPL happened and so on.

CC: Is there any bowler who has inspired you, or you followed as a budding cricketer?

SS: I have always liked James Anderson. I love his bowling. I am really fond of his bowling and action.

CC: Did you get a chance to exchange notes?

SS: No, never. I have never got an opportunity to meet him or interact with him.

CC: Who are you other favourite cricketers?

SS: Oh, there are many, mostly from current era. Of course, Virat Kohli is amazing. I also like MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers,

Trivia: The last time he bowled to Kohli and de Villiers, he got both of them out. He returned figures of 4-0-22-3 and won the Man of the Match.

CC: You played for India in 2015. At one point of time, you were being considered as a prospect. Many leaped ahead in the queue and you have fallen behind in ranks. How do you see your India ambitions shaping?

SS: I got injured after I played in Zimbabwe. I had a shoulder surgery and thus missed a year and a half. It was only last season that I played a full season. I did okay. There is competition for slots in national side. We have many good pacers in the country. I am still 24 and can still make it to the Indian team. Obviously that is the aim.

Note: Sandeep did not really set things on fire in the domestic season. His best performance came in Duleep Trophy where he bagged a 4-wicket haul for India Green with the pink ball.

Hyderabad are currently placed in the second spot in IPL 2018 points table. They face Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at Hyderabad on Sunday. Sandeep would be raring to make a mark against one of his favourites — MS Dhoni.