AB wanted me to learn the hunger to succeed from Virat, says Mandeep Singh
They had a lot of promise on paper, the team was replete with stars, with match-winners who could take the game by the scruff of the neck and churn out victories, they had Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, and yet Royal Challengers Bangalore came up short.
The season was so much like the previous seasons, tremendous anticipation, a lot of hope and then not very consistent performances in the league.
Sportskeeda caught up with one of the young guns in the side, Mandeep Singh to discuss more about the season, the role of Virat Kohli and the AB de Villiers saga.
A glittering team, a plethora of stars and yet RCB struggled... What went wrong for the team this season?
I think lack of consistency. Be it batting or bowling, we were never consistent, both departments never clicked together and this was one of the reasons why we couldn’t make it to the qualifiers.
Our bowling was not up to the mark in the first half and then towards the later stages, our batting was not consistent.
Virat Kohli kept saying that the middle order was not performing as well, did this put more pressure on you?
I did not see it as pressure, I took it up as a challenge. I have always played as an opener in T20s, but I was informed immediately after the auctions (by Ashish Nehra) that the team wants me to bat in the middle order.
Personally, I feel I have the game to bat at any number. Preparation is the key for me and I made sure I put in the hard yards. My first half was good, but unfortunately the second half I could not do justice to the trust of the team.
If I could have scored runs in our last game, we would have made it to the qualifiers, but yes, I lacked consistency this season.
What specific changes did you make in your batting to adjust to the middle order?
I used to practice hitting the ball quite a lot. I also took part in the Goa Premier League where I batted in the lower order to tweak my game and focus more on hitting the ball.
I faced a lot of spinners and death bowling, tried to get into positions and was looking to hit sixes, which was evident in the first half of the IPL.
My game plan was pretty simple, if AB or Virat were dismissed, I tried to stick around till the 20th over, if they were still there, I took my chances from ball one.
I was still opening for Punjab even before the auctions, and batting at two entirely different positions is challenging, but I did my best to adjust and make preparations.
Gary Kirsten was the batting consultant this season, what was his impact on your game?
Well, he notices and specifies key areas, very pointed statements, it was fun working with him this season.
Like I said, I was struggling to get going in the last few matches, so he sat me down and asked me to go for power and not to worry about getting out.
I was dismissed off the slower ball a couple of times, so he bowled to me and we devised new ways to tackle it in the games. He asked me not go for placement against slower balls, but try to hit the ball in front of the wicket with power.
You batted a lot with AB de Villiers this season, tell us about the conversations and the way he thinks about the game?
I think he is a great reader of the game and then devises his plan according to the situation.
And then, if he is there on the pitch, irrespective of the surface, he will win matches all on his own, such is his game. I remember the match against CSK in Bengaluru when the ball was turning a lot, he made batting look ridiculously easy.
He has the skills to adjust according to the different surfaces. If the ball is turning, he unfurls a lot of sweeps to counter it, he backs himself, even if he gets out, he is never fazed.
Virat Kohli the captain, Virat Kohli the batsman, is it the same or different?
I think it’s his fire to do well in every game, he is fully pumped up before the game or before he comes out to bat and this is his biggest strength.
He never wants to play any ball without intent, he never wants to get out in any game. He works really hard on his game and fitness, but his hunger to perform in every game is what keeps him going.
I have not seen this hunger to succeed in every game in any other player.
Back in 2015, AB de Villiers told me that every player has a different technique, but he wanted me to learn this hunger to succeed from Virat in every game.
When the going was tough for the team, how did the camp remain confident?
Virat, AB, Daniel Vettori, and Ashish Nehra, these guys stepped up and spoke with the team.
Nehra played a huge part this season, he is a brilliant person, a brilliant coach, he gelled beautifully with the team in his first season with us.
We have been in such situations before and the guys reiterated that we have to take it as a challenge and not play under the pressure of qualifying.
We were told to enjoy and express ourselves and not to focus too much on qualifying.
Your season ended in the league stage, so what was the parting message to the squad from the management?
There was this common message that we had a brilliant, well-balanced team, but we did not play consistent cricket and we should work hard for the next season.
Personally, what are your ambitions for this season?
Punjab has a lot of potential, we have superb players, but we have not won trophies over the past five years. We have been in the finals, but have not been able to clinch the title.
Not only me, but this will be a common goal for all of us to win a trophy. And then winning my spot back in the Indian team will always inspire me to work hard.