People say that I bowl like Anil Kumble, says two-time IPL winner Shreyas Gopal
For someone who came into the Karnataka side as a specialist batsman, a lot has changed for the 24 year old Shreyas Gopal over the years. In his very first season with Karnataka back in 2013-14, he happened to assume the role of their lead spinner and ended up with 22 wickets to his name in 18 matches.
With the ability to bamboozle batsmen with his leg-breaks, Shreyas’ action seems eerily similar to a certain Indian cricket team legend, Anil Kumble.
It comes as no surprise that the 3rd highest wicket taker of all-time was Shreyas’ role model growing up.
“As a spinner, Anil Kumble sir has been my role model growing up. I’ve tried copying his action as a kid. People say that I still bowl like that but right now it's more natural than it is copied. He’s one spinner who I really look up to him and the values he shared with me while coaching the Mumbai Indians side is something I will cherish for a long long time,” said Shreyas.
It has been an exciting journey for the youngster so far. He grew up playing a lot of sports with a slight preference for cricket over the others.
From there on, he went on to captain the Karnataka U-13, U-15, U-16, and U-19 before playing the Ranji Trophy.
“I’ve played a lot of sports growing up. I’ve played a lot of badminton, roller skates, and cricket. Having liked cricket the most, I started playing at home. From there, I went on to the Brijesh Patel Cricket Academy and then a few years later I moved on to the KIOC.”
His breakthrough season with Karnataka led to an IPL call-up as he was bagged by the star-studded Mumbai Indians for his base price of Rs. 10 lakh in 2014.
He might not have played too many matches for the three time IPL winners but has got to share the dressing room with world-class cricketers such as Rohit Sharma, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, and Mike Hussey just to name a few.
“It’s been amazing to just share the dressing room with the best in the business. I couldn’t have asked for anything more as a youngster. The values, the lessons, the knowledge I have received during my time in the IPL is something I would apply in my life for many years to come.”
“Rohit (Sharma) is an amazing captain. He’s as cool as his batting. That is something I really look up to. He’s also an amazing person on the field. Getting into the Mumbai Indians, I was a bit tense whether I could speak to the big players but it all disappeared after the first two days. That’s’ why we call ourselves the MI family,” said Shreyas about Rohit's captaincy.
While Sachin Tendulkar played his last match for Mumbai in 2014, he continued to stick on with the team assuming the role of a coach and then mentor.
He has always been seen in the dugout during Mumbai’s home matches and supporting them through and through. For youngsters such as Shreyas, it has been a dream come true to rub shoulders with the legend and gain valuable tips from the Master himself.
“It was an amazing moment for me. It’s every cricketer’s dream to speak to Sachin sir, Rahul sir, or Anil Sir. It was a great experience. Those small pieces of advice which he gives can make a huge difference in anyone’s career – be it as a person or a cricketer.
He’s very approachable and always takes time out to help us. He’s never snubbed anyone by saying he’s busy or anything like that. I think that’s why we all look up to him so much more. I think spending time with Mumbai Indians and Sachin sir all these years has given me so much more confidence and so much more clarity in cricket,” said Shreyas.
The KPL journey
Shreyas has been associated with the Karnataka Premier League as well for a long time now and his journey through the years has been quite incredible.
From being one of the inexperienced cricketers in the league when it just began, he has come a long way and has made great strides in his career to become one of the most experienced cricketers playing in the league.
“It’s been great. I missed the first KPL as I was playing the Champions League T20 with the Mumbai Indians. The KPL has been amazing. We have all seen a lot of cricketers make it through to the IPL and who are doing wonders for Karnataka cricket. It’s something we look forward to every year and hopefully continues for many more years.”
Playing for the Mysuru Warriors this time around, his side began on an extremely positive note winning the first two matches of the season including the nail-biter against Bijapur Bulls where Shreyas himself defended 14 runs in the final over.
However, things have gone a bit downhill as they went on to lose their next two games and now find themselves mid-table during the shift from Mysore to Hubli.
So, where did it all go wrong for the Warriors over the last couple of games?
“I think we’ve lost a couple of moments in each game it’s not like we had very bad defeats. We’ve had really close matches so we were always in the game. It's just a few crucial phases which we lost and that probably the match slipped from our hands.”
“I think we need to improve a bit in all three departments of the game as there have been a few lapses here and there. Saying that I think we are a very formidable side. Every team goes through this and it’s about how we come back from there.”
Team chemistry is something which is vital in the game of cricket. When a bunch of cricketers are thrown together as they are in these T20 leagues such as the IPL, KPL, TNPL, it is important for the members in the side to gel with each other and work towards
With a mix of youth and experience in each KPL side, it becomes important that there is no barrier between the seniors and the youngsters.
“I’ve never tried to create that barrier between me and any youngster or first-timer. I’ve always wanted them to be as free as they can. That’s the great thing about this team. I'm sure there’s no such feeling amongst the younger guys when they look at the experienced ones. It’s not only like they learn from us. In fact, I’ve learned a lot from the younger guys. It’s very important that we all work as a team in the end.”
Shreyas will surely have a huge role to play this season if the Warriors are to have a long run in the tournament. With his ability to consistently perform well both with the bat and ball, a national call-up might not be too far away for the talented 24 year old.