City lad Manan Vohra was the only Indian cricketer to be retained by Kings XI Punjab, along with South African David Miller, before the start of IPL Season 7. Many considered the decision surprising.
However, when the 20-yearold youngster got the opportunity to play for the team, after spending the initial stage of the tournament on the bench, he grabbed it with both hands and played a decent knock in almost every match. Vohra produced his best, a 67-run knock in the final against Kolkata Knight Riders, though his team finished runners-up. Even among the hosts of swashbuckling players like Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Virender Sehwag and George Bailey, Vohra made a name for himself with his notable performances.
Excerpts from the interview of the youngster:
Q: Post IPL 7, Manan Vohra has become an upcoming cricket sensation, and also an integral part of KXIP after helping the side finish runners-up in the event. How does it feel?
I am happy to have performed well for Kings XI Punjab. As an opener, my job was to give the team solid starts, and it is good that I was able to deliver on that front. We played well throughout the tournament, and it is only hard luck that we could not lift the trophy. Personally, I feel that I could have added more runs to my tally if I hadn’t thrown away my wicket at crucial junctures in some matches.
Q: Compared to your maiden IPL season last year, how were you different as a player this time around?
I was more confident and mature, and also very clear in my mind about what I had to do. Besides that, I worked hard on my technique so as not to repeat the mistakes I had committed last year.
Q: Many were surprised by your retention in the KXIP setup, though it also showed the immense faith of the team management in your abilities. Did you feel nervous about the trust the team had showed in you?
Initially, I was also surprised after learning about my retention and was feeling nervous as to how I would deal with the expectations. Gradually, I started taking it more as an opportunity. I knew that if I could perform well and play some good knocks at such a big stage, it would not only help me grab the limelight but also take my career graph upwards.
Q: Team showed a great trust in you by making you open the innings with such a seasoned campaigner like Virender Sehwag. Did you ever feel the pressure of the responsibility?
I have been opening for my state Ranji side for quite some time now and wish to play for the country in the same role in the future. I never felt the pressure of opening for Kings XI Punjab as I knew that besides Virupaaji, we had some great hitters down the line-up, including Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, skipper George Bailey and Shaun Marsh. So, even if I would falter, they were there to hold the innings.
Q: Virender Sehwag is one of the best players in Indian cricket and has shared some spectacular opening-wicket stands with another great, Sachin Tendulkar. How was it to be in the middle with Sehwag?
Frankly, I had never expected to open with Viru paaji, and I am very fortunate to have got this chance. He bats so coolly and never takes pressure. When at the other end, he always used to encourage me and give compliments. Whenever I used to play good shots, he tapped me on my head. I would cherish that gesture throughout my life. I have learnt a lot from him.
Q: Whenever were you in full flow, did he ever tell to hold yourself?
Yes (laughs). On a couple of occasions he did tell me, “it won’t be bad if you leave a couple of balls”. The suggestion helped me in the long run during the tournament.
Q: Unlike last season, where you played all the matches for the team, this time you were included in the ‘Playing 11’ only after the season had almost reached midway. What was going through your mind when you were warming the benches?
I was very frustrated about not getting a chance to play. I had done well in the team’s practice matches and was also practising hard in the nets with a single aim to go out and give my best. The wait eventually ended and I am happy to have been able to contribute to the team’s cause.
Q: Right from your first match against Hyderabad Sunrisers, you played well till the end of the tournament. Did this consistency ever put you under pressure of giving similarly good performances match after match?
There was no pressure as such. I was included in the team’s ‘Playing 11’ in the later stage of the tournament, so I had limited opportunities and needed to capitalise on that. I knew that if I would do well in a match, I will get more chances to play. This hunger to give my best in every match helped me perform well throughout the season.
Q: You played three matches in front of the home crowd at the PCA Stadium, and won a Man of the Match award in one of them. How did you feel?
Playing in front of the home crowd was very special, and I found full support from the jam-packed stadium during all the three matches. Being a local boy, I knew people would expect me to play well. I also wanted to live up to their expectations by doing well and badly wanted to win the Man of the Match award in front of the home crowd. I thank God for finally fulfilling that wish in our last home match, against Delhi Daredevils.
Q: After closely missing out on your first IPL fifty on three occasions, you finally got it in the title clash against Kolkata Knight Riders. Do you think that four half-centuries would have been better than one?
It is only now that I feel bad about squandering away the opportunities and that I could have done better. But it doesn’t hurt much after realising that, though I missed out on a personal feat, I did well for the team’s cause. As for the half-centuries, I can still score them next year.
Q: Can we say that this year has been your best in terms of your cricketing career?
Yes, I believe this has been my best season so far, as I not only did well in IPL 7, but also had some good knocks in the Ranji Trophy earlier this year.
Q: We know that you missed the 2012 U-19 World Cup due to a left-hand thumb injury. Does that thought still rankles you, and can your recent good show on such a big stage as IPL help overcome that unpleasant past?
For me, representing India in the World Cup is a very special honour that cannot be matched by anything else. I still feel bad about missing the opportunity, and that disappointment will only go away when I represent the country in the World Cup (Senior) in the future.
Q: What is next on your radar?
I have been selected in the group of probables for the India under-23 camp to start at Bangalore from June 5. I am looking forward to making the cut in the final team that will participate in this year’s age-group related tournaments, including the Asian Cricket Council’s Emerging Trophy. Since, I missed out last year, I am eager to be part of the team this time.