The Sirohi-born lad has been a mainstay in the team for long enough now and has had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the stalwarts of the game, including Jaydev Unadkat and Cheteshwar Pujara.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Mankad spoke about how great it was to have Pujara, a veteran of 95 Tests, and Unadkat in the dressing room during the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments. He said:
"It’s always great to have him around. Even JD bhai (Unadkat)…all the senior pros of our Saurashtra team. Even if we are doing well, they still want us to get better at our strengths as well. Whenever we feel that we need to ask anything we can speak to them and they always give us valuable guidance. For bowling, JD bhai...I always ask him about my bowling and variations, how to bowl in particular phases of the game."
"For batting, I speak to Chetu bhai (Pujara) a lot on how to approach the game, particularly after I got picked for the IPL. I speak to both of them. Whenever I get an opportunity to be with them, I always feel happy to have them around me."
Post the group stages of the Ranji Trophy, Prerak Mankad represented Punjab Kings in IPL 2022
Mankad experienced playing in the IPL for the first time this year, having turned out for the Punjab Kings (PBKS) in the just-concluded season.
When asked if there was anything in particular that he worked on during his IPL stint, Mankad replied:
"Not one particular aspect...I have to work more on my bowling and my strength and I also want to get more clear about my batting, my shot selection. I’m trying to get clearer on whatever I’m doing during training. In my bowling I’m trying to develop more variations, trying to use more angles. And I’m also working on my fitness and strength to get better in all departments."
Mankad has been a regular on the domestic circuit - a fact restated by Saurashtra's Ranji Trophy triumph. What about the pressure of expectations then? How does he deal with them? He explained:
"I don’t feel pressured by expectations from others. I always want to get better from the last game that I’ve played. Whenever I go onto the field I always strive to get better than how I played the last game. While playing in the IPL there was some pressure but once I got into training I knew that I belong here and I can deliver here."
Despite modest returns in the group stage of the Ranji Trophy 2021-22, Mankad enjoyed a fruitful domestic season across the white-ball formats. After compiling 184 runs at a strike rate of 136.29 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he racked up 376 runs at an average of 94.00 and a strike rate of 114.98 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, apart from chipping in with six wickets.
Has Mankad hit his peak then? Here's what he had to say:
"You can say that, but I have to maintain that consistency. If I’ve scored these many runs I need to get better and score as many runs as I can in the next edition and so on. You can say I’m doing well over the last couple of years but I have to be there or thereabouts. I need to perform more like this in the upcoming season as well. You can say this is the starting point of my peak and the credit goes to my state team as well because they gave me the opportunity to bat at No. 4 and higher up the order so that I can get more time during the white ball games. They gave me an opportunity and I’m happy that I delivered for my team and myself as well."
"I feel lucky I've got this success in a short period of time" - Prerak Mankad
Having focused his attention towards academics for a good part of his childhood, Mankad started playing cricket seriously much later. Asked if he idolizes anyone as an all-rounder, Mankad said that while he doesn't do so as such, he strives to be a player who wins games for his team. He stated:
"There are a lot of players these days at the international level so there’s no particular player that I idolize as such. Everyone’s doing great and I want to be a player who makes the team win. Being an all-rounder, I always want to deliver in all three departments - batting, bowling and fielding. I loved playing cricket from childhood but I didn’t start early. I started after Class 12 - I was focused more on my studies during childhood. I got opportunities after 12th and I feel lucky that I’ve got this kind of success at a later stage and in such a short period of time."
Saurashtra weren't able to qualify for the knockouts of the Ranji Trophy 2021-22 season and won't be able to defend their title. So what's next for Mankad? He revealed:
"We're having the Saurashtra Premier League...I’ll be playing that tournament so I’ll get back to work and get better. I’ll try and repeat what I’ve done in the last couple of seasons. After that let’s see how things go for me."
Mankad has teamed up with Ranji Trophy-winning skipper Unadkat in the ongoing Saurashtra Premier League as a member of the Gohilwad Gladiators outfit.