Back in April 2021, players and staff members that were part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) were all cooped up in their hotel rooms - a norm since early last year owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Quarantine periods, in recent times, have notoriously been known to drive an athlete to complete boredom. Without much to do apart from monotonous workouts, watching shows and movies or diving into a book, players have often complained of their time within the confines of a hotel room.
Similar was the case for Rajasthan Royals (RR) spinner Shreyas Gopal, who failed to find an interesting aspect of quarantine, only to conjure up a means of keeping himself entertained by pranking his RR mates.
In an exclusive interview with Sportseeda, Shreyas Gopal had the following to say:
"In April, we were in quarantine, we were not allowed out of our room. It was getting very claustrophobic and boring in the room. So I picked up the phone and called up someone in the management, and I asked them for everyone’s room number. I called up each player and started pranking them, forcing them to come downstairs."
"Obviously no one could come down, it was such a helpless situation for them, I was telling them some parcels are here, or their bags are here. I was telling them it was a proper big parcel and they needed to come down and sign it. I actually found out a hidden side of a few players, some of them got really angry and it sort of shook me. Some of them were even blasting me on the phone, that was really fun."
Naturally, Gopal's pranks on his teammates and support staff were only meant to be in good humour. However, it did manage to go as far as irking some of the folks at RR, including a starlet who is better known for his all-round skill and 'Bihu' dance.
"Liam Livingstone was among the ones who got flustered the most. Dishant Yagnik was there, he actually lost the plot, he was on the verge of hitting me probably. Riyan Parag got very angry, I didn’t expect him to lose his temper, but that brought out the other side of him, it was a whole lot of fun!"
"Not one person in India expected it" - Gopal on Rahul Dravid's 'Indranagar ka gunda' advertisement
Currently in his Bengaluru home with family owing to the lockdown situation in Karnataka, Gopal is leaving no stone unturned to ensure he stays fit and ready for the remainder of IPL 2021.
With no access to training facilities in the state, Gopal converted his room into a gym, immediately after returning from Delhi once the IPL was called off in May.
Dumbbells ranging from 5 kg - 20 kg, an Olympic bar, different weights are now a part of his 'room gym', with a basement big enough to facilitate his skipping and running routines.
With only social media an able source of company, it's only natural that Gopal would be more than up-to-date with all the happenings in the online world in the past few weeks.
However, it was on the opening day of IPL 2021 that Gopal happened to stumble upon one of the more memorable social media posts of recent times. Indian cricket legend Rahul Dravid had chosen to step out of his comfort zone as part of a quirky ad campaign.
By his own admission, Dravid's presence and role in the advertisement came as a pleasant surprise for the leg-spinner.
"I don’t think anyone can remember anything wild Dravid Sir has done, let alone people who have known him for a few decades. It was a pleasant surprise to see that side of him, it was something no one expected, I really liked it a lot. It brought out a different side in him, something that no one has ever seen before."
It didn't stop at Gopal. The legendary Indian cricketer's top-class acting and portrayal of the role was one of the hottest topics of discussion within the Royals group as well.
"Within the RR team, everyone was talking about it for a good 2-3 days, since he was the coach for a long time. People were pleasantly surprised, not one person in India expected him to do something like that which was a surprise package. He really brought it out well and it was really different. I really loved it, he was very vibrant in that and I really enjoyed it."
"Will need to put my thinking cap back on" - RR's Gopal on bowling to Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers
Now, close to a few months since Dravid's memorable cameo - albeit off the field - and a brand new gym setup at home, Gopal is warming up to the IPL's resumption in September later this year.
From 47 matches in the IPL, Gopal has 48 wickets at an economy of 8.03, and among those scalps are two of world cricket's biggest names - RCB stalwarts Kohli and De Villiers.
That Kohli and De Villiers have been termed as Gopal's 'bunnies' further highlights the leggie's dominance over the duo. Yet, despite all the attention he receives prior to an RCB v RR encounter, Gopal reckons there's a lot to learn.
"I just find a lot of people when it comes to RR v RCB, they are always talking about it (his success against Kohli and ABD) or they post about it and tag me, that’s something I can’t change. I wouldn’t get bored of it, I am very happy to have got them out, they are class players."
"You have to bowl well to get them out, but having said that, over the last few years I haven’t been able to get on top of them. This shows the quality they have as players, this will mean I need to put on my thinking cap and get back to work and not get too carried away. People are definitely going to keep talking to me and asking about it, they are curious to know what I’ve said and things like that, I’ve answered the question a few 100 times."
While it's certain that Gopal's bag of tricks will keep the batsmen on their toes for the rest of IPL 2021, the 'prankster' side of the Royals star will want to make a return once the quarantine period is set in place in UAE.
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