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Exclusive: Keepers still aren't 100% sure reading Rashid Khan's variations, says Shreevats Goswami 

Aadya Sharma
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Exclusive
276   //    12 Apr 2019, 17:01 IST

"There was no Instagram, Facebook wasn't popular, and there wasn't so much hype around Twitter".

Shreevats Goswami recalls the 2008 U-19 World Cup as a time when the team bonded over coffee outside, instead of sitting on their phones inside rooms. Wicketkeeper-batsman of the Virat Kohli-led, Cup-winning side, Goswami swears by the real friendships that were made during the tournament, culminating in a famous title win.

The bonds still stay, but eleven years down the line, each player has taken a different path.

Goswami, part of Sunrisers Hyderabad today, is one of only five members of the 15-man squad currently featuring in the IPL. A classy batsman and a sharp keeper, Goswami was IPL 2008's Emerging Player of the Year, but has had a roller-coaster career since.

In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Goswami talks about his experience at the Sunrisers, Keeper Dhoni, making an IPL comeback, and more.


You've played for multiple IPL franchises, SRH being your 4th. What sets the Sunrisers apart from the rest?

What immediately comes to my mind when we talk about SRH is 'family'. The whole atmosphere, the environment, the management, and the owners welcome you very warmly.

The whole unit is a family; there's no feeling of non-belonging here. They treat everyone equally and there's a lot of respect for each other, and for the whole group.

With all due respect to other franchises, I hope things have changed there as well, but when players are part of SRH, they feel like they're coming home.

How important is the Kane Williamson-David Warner combination for the Sunrisers?

Davey (Warner) wasn't here last year, and looks very determined having been away from cricket for the past few months. The way he's played, it doesn't look like he's been away. It seems like he was practising and picturing these sorts of moments in his mind.

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Kane was here last year as well. I played alongside him in the 2008 U-19 World Cup as well. He is exactly how we see him on TV, very calm and composed. He is also a very inspirational leader, he led us in the previous tournament really well. He is also one of the best batsmen in the world right now.

Warner is more aggressive as an individual, while Kane is calm. The combination fits pretty well for the team.

You've been in good nick recently (Bengal's leading run-getter in the 2019 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy). What changes have you made to your own game over the past couple of years?

I can't really pinpoint specific things. Overall, the fitness level that the game demands has changed drastically over a period. This game demands players to be very fit, not 'just' fit. My fitness has improved over the years.

Playing the last few seasons, I have been growing as a cricketer and as a person: maybe that has improved. My cricketing intelligence has definitely been enhanced.

For my domestic side, I help them get off to a good start. When I open and get a good start, I try to get them through. These are the things you learn sitting out in the dugout here (at SRH). Those things have really helped me.

How beneficial has the coaching troika at SRH been for you?

All three (VVS Laxman, Muralitharan and Tom Moody) are really nice people, apart from being among the best cricketers of their time. When you practice and they are around, you observe, listen and learn from them, instead of approaching them and asking specific questions.

While they are talking about the game, or when you are batting and they are rectifying mistakes, you listen, keep those things in mind and try to do better the next time.

Frankly, how difficult is it to read and keep to Rashid Khan's variations in the nets?

Last year, I honestly couldn't. It took me 3-4 net sessions to figure out what was going on, because I hadn't kept to him before. So, it was difficult. Even now, people who keep to him aren't 100% confident.

But now, I have gotten used to it and try going in the nets to keep whenever he is bowling. I try to read his action, the fingers, whenever he is bowling in the warm-ups, to catch the variations.

In IPL, only one or two keepers play the entire tournament, while the others sit out. How testing is it for the rest of the lot?

It is difficult. Then again, all these things are part and parcel of being a cricketer. As a domestic cricketer, it is difficult to sustain your place in the playing XI for all the games because there are international players in the squad.

For us, when we come here (for IPL), we have to be prepared and game-ready. We know we won't get a lot of matches, but whenever we do, we make sure we do well.

I know it is difficult to come in straight away and start performing at such a high level, but then, that is our job, and that's how things are.

You are very active on Instagram, and frequently post about your travels. How important are these kinds of breaks for pro cricketers?

Taking time out and going on a holiday, being with your friends and family, and spending time with them is extremely important. For an Indian domestic player, there is hardly any time. We finish the IPL, and we go back to start our training camp.

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We only have the monsoon holiday for one and a half months, then we get back to domestic cricket. It is difficult.

Whenever I get time, I travel and see new places which help me recover and keep fresh, just like other people.

While you are an Adam Gilchrist fan, how big an influence has MS Dhoni been on your career?

Dhoni bhai is No.1 and everybody loves him, so do I. I am a big fan of him. When he came into the Indian team, he wasn't as good a keeper as he is now. Having said that, no one can copy him, he has got his own technique and his own way of doing things.

Even if you copy him, it doesn't work. Dhoni is Dhoni, we cannot copy him. We might not be as successful as him, but we must be the best of what we can be.

Even now, we see how he approaches the game. It's different, he takes his time, but he always takes his country through. There is so much to learn from him.

There is a perception that with Dhoni at the top for years now, other keepers have been unlucky to be born in the same era. What do you have to say about that?

(Chuckles) It is true. In cricket, you can only have one keeper. You can't have more than that. It's not like batting or bowling where you can put in five together. Dhoni is there, he has sustained his spot for decades now and obviously there are no complaints. He has won the World Cup for the country.

Personally, you can say that if he's there others don't get a chance, but that's how life is. You have to take everything in your stride.

Any memories, not so famous, from the 2008 U-19 World Cup that you vividly recall?

That time was a different era. There wasn't so much of social media.

We actually used to enjoy the phase and hang out together. I remember vividly that whenever we used to travel, we used to all go out together and have coffee, instead of being inside our rooms and sitting on our phones.

That is why we are still friends. Manish (Pandey) and Sid (Kaul) are in the same team as me (at SRH), there are other players as well that I am in touch with. It's because of the culture we developed back then.

After a strong start, you weren't part of the IPL for five seasons in the middle (2012-2017). How did you manage being away from the initial limelight that you experienced?

It is difficult. That is where you have to grow as a person. It is not just about playing cricket. Side by side, you have to grow as a person too.

In the IPL, as a domestic cricketer, if you are not playing internationals, it gets very difficult to come back and start performing at such a high level.

We (as domestic cricketers) have to start performing at the domestic level to get recognition, and for the franchise to have belief in us.

You cannot sulk, cry, complain; you have to practice and work hard. You have to become fitter.

What pushed you towards making a comeback then? What goals have you set for yourself now?

There were many things that I realised I needed to do to become someone people could believe in. You can work hard, but if you do not perform, you won't be picked. Hard work got me back, and now I am here.

Right now my goal is to prepare and stay strong: to be game-ready to perform for the team and make a valuable contribution.

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