Players possessing more than one skill are in demand when it comes to Twenty20 cricket. And Indian selectors are tapping into potential found during the rescheduled limited-overs domestic tournaments.
Having given Virat Kohli a well-deserved rest for the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka this month, the selectors have rewarded Karnataka batsman Manish Pandey for his match-winning century in the Sydney ODI and Delhi all-rounder Pawan Negi, who bowls left-arm spin and bats left-handed, for consistency at domestic level. Both have been included in the squad for the three T20s against Sri Lanka this month.
India skipper MS Dhoni had stressed on the value of having all-rounders in the T20 side and Negi has got an excellent opportunity leading up to the World Twenty20 in March-April. And Dhoni has seen what Negi is capable of while playing for the Chennai Super Kings.
Negi, 23, is realistic, and knows breaking into the playing eleven might be difficult. “With the WT20 just a month away, and when the entire team had contributed so well Down Under, the call was surprising. However, I had performed extremely well in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy,” Negi said on Monday.
Besides his bowling, Negi was impressive with his batting contributions. And he attributed that improvement to fellow left-hander Suresh Raina’s help in the last one year.
“I’ve been in constant touch with Raina bhai. We practice together in Noida, and he has been the reason behind my consistency. Whenever he is in Delhi, he makes sure he bats along with me in the nets. He tells me to visualise different situations in a match and should be my approach. One of the things he told me was that whenever I get to bat early in an innings, I should curtail big shots and try and take the game till the end. That is what I have been doing for the last one year and thankfully it has been rewarded.”
In the Vijay Hazare one-day tournament, out of five innings, Negi was unbeaten in three, his brilliant average of 85 the best among Delhi batsmen. In T20s, he averages 86.5. He batted in eight innings and was unbeaten in six of them. He took 16 wickets in nine Vijay Hazare Games and had six scalps at a modest economy rate of 8.71.
“My strength has been to play big shots but until last year, I never realised that making 25-30 runs will not help my cause. Raina bhai told me the importance of shouldering the responsibility and to bat with maturity.”
Negi is a bowling all-rounder. In the last IPL, he had good and bad moments. Mumbai Indians’ Hardik Pandya tonked him for three sixes, but his spell against Kings XI Punjab won him the Man-of-the-Match award.
“Dhoni bhai (CSK skipper) told me to bowl fearlessly with the new ball. I was a bit scared but he told me to bowl as if I was bowling in the middle overs. Since then, I am working on how to become better,” Negi added.