Fifth ODI against New Zealand changed things for me: Vijay Shankar
Vijay Shankar played a couple of handy knocks for India against New Zealand. (AFP Image)

Vijay Shankar has come a long way since the Nidahas Trophy final last year. Chasing a stiff 167 to win the final, Shankar laboured to 17 off 19 balls before Dinesh Karthik, his state-mate, bailed India out of trouble. For the next few days, Shankar was trolled left, right and centre on social media.

Roughly 11 months later, Shankar, having played eight T20Is and four ODIs, feels he is at a much better place mentally. He made his ODI debut against Australia in Melbourne and went on to play three matches in India’s 4-1 series win in New Zealand. The result could have been 3-2 in favour of India had Shankar not played a vital hand in a match that was running away from India after yet another top-order collapse saw them being reduced to 18 for 4.

Shankar then combined with Ambati Rayudu for a 98-run stand that brought India back in the match with the allrounder playing a calculated knock of 45 being getting run-out. That innings, as per Shankar, has changed his outlook towards his game.

“When I played in the fifth ODI where we were 18 for 4 and I scored that 45, that knock gave the team confidence that I can bat up the order and do well,” Shankar told Times of India in an interview. “If I didn’t do well there, I would have anyways been out of the team. I had nothing to lose. I thought I should just enjoy the moment and play as many overs as possible. That ODI has changed things for me.”

The promise in that knock was of such prominence that Shankar was promoted to bat at No. 3 in the final T20I. Chasing 213 to win, Shankar scored 43 and looked in imperious touch, smashing Ish Sodhi for consecutive sixes. His 75-run partnership with Rohit Sharma had India ticking along before he perished. India went on to lose that game by a narrow margin of four runs, but Shankar feels the result could have been different had he stuck a little longer.

“After the practice session just before the first T20I, Rohit Sharma told me that I might bat at No. 3. He just asked me to be ready. The team on the whole feels I am good enough to bat there,” Shankar added.

“I actually expected a lot more from myself. I could have batted till the end and seen the team through in the second T20I against New Zealand, but I missed out. In that way, I was a bit disappointed. But otherwise, it was a good tour for me. I have learnt a lot and I am getting better.

“Mentally, I was in a very good space when I went there. I remember telling before leaving for Australia that I can win close matches with the bat. I had a chance to do that but I missed out. I have done it a couple of times for India A, but I need to show the world that I can do it a lot more for India.”

While Shankar has made heads turn with his batting, his bowling wasn’t used as much as he would have liked to. Shankar bowled in all the four one-day matches he’s played but is yet to pick a wicket in the format.

“During the recent series, my thinking was only to keep it really tight and bowl stump to stump. I was restrictive in my mindset with the ball. My biggest strength with the ball is to use the short ball effectively,” Shankar said.

“I can bowl quicker than I bowled recently. It’s just the matter of one game where I bowl a 10-over spell and give the team confidence that I can do it. I feel it is all about that. I can definitely bowl a touch quicker than I showed in New Zealand. It is just about confidence. If I can get a couple of wickets too, things will be different.”