IPL 2023: Abdul Samad hopes to find finishing form again
The gifted stroke maker was let down by his shot selection last season but hopes to make amends this time around
There’s a thin line between calculated strokeplay and reckless batting. Understanding its importance is the key to becoming a successful finisher. It is among the most difficult of skills to master, though.
Abdul Samad was been as a natural fit for this role because of his power-hitting ability. To maintain a high strike-rate without gifting away your wicket requires not just the big shots but also the street smarts to make the most of every delivery and the youngster from Jammu has that. But a lean 2022 IPL season forced him to go back to the drawing board.
A gifted stroke maker, his shot selection was letting him down, resulting in him being benched for the majority of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s matches in the last IPL season.
He has done a good amount of work on this aspect of his game. The results showed during the domestic season. The 8-10 ball cameos have improved to half-centuries. It was on display during matches for Jammi & Kashmir and in the DY Patil T20 tournament, where he blasted two scores of 60 plus apart from a couple of crucial 30s to power his team into the semifinals where they lost to Reliance I on Saturday.
“After a good impact in the first season, my form had dipped a bit because of which I didn’t play all the matches last season. From that, I got to learn a lot. I worked on what my weak points were, looked at getting the singles and doubles (apart from the boundary hits). So, this season I am quite confident about the things which I was lacking," said Samad. “I have become selective in shot making and out hone ki percentage kum ho gayi hai (my average is better). In the T20 Mushtaq Ali, I had three not outs. In the T20s, I try to play till the last over and the last ball.”
The DY Patil Group A team management had a first-hand experience of his improved form in the Vijay Hazare Trophy matches played in Mumbai three months ago. In Jammu & Kashmir’s opening game against Madhya Pradesh, played at the DY Patil’s University ground, Samad hit 66 to help script an upset win in the chase of 342. He followed it up with a 64 against Baroda. Hence, the offer to play for them in the annual DY Patil T20 Cup where a lot of IPL stars turn out regularly in preparation for the IPL – Arshdeep Singh and Rahul Tewatia were his teammates in the DY Patil side.
As the designated finisher of the Hyderabad IPL outfit, he has the toughest job in the line-up. To get better at his role he sought out the best brains in the business -- Irfan Pathan and M S Dhoni.
“It makes a lot of difference after talking to senior players, Irfan Pathan is my mentor, I keep speaking to him. He always tells me that the ability I have got, try and take the game deep. I had discussed it with M S Dhoni in the IPL too. He told me the same thing: 'the ability you have got, everyone doesn’t have it'. It gave me a lot of confidence. I have worked on it this season. I try to take the game as deep as possible. It is helping me as well, the more balls I face, the more runs I get and it benefits the team.”
Hailing from Jammu, Samad has become a trendsetter in his home state. He is helping his state mates also find a platform in the T20 league. Umran Malik owes his break at SRH to Samad’s recommendation. This season he has helped promote another talented player, Vivrant Sharma, after introducing him to Sunrisers.
“If I feel someone is talented, I try and make an effort that some or the other scout has a look at him. So that he gets a chance, rest is up to the player how he performs, if he clicks on time or not. Like Umran Malik clicked on time; Vivrant had gone as a net bowler, he also performed well this time in domestic cricket.
After the success of Malik, a lot of teams looking for talent from Jammu & Kashmir check with Samad now.
“If you look at other states, like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka from every state five to six to 10 players are there in the IPL, I want that from our state also at least 10-12 IPL players should continuously be (picked) there in the squads. You must have seen the result this year, there are five players from J&K in the IPL this season.
“Hopefully in the coming seasons, we will get to see more players from J&K. I have not done anything special. I just try to give them confidence that if I can do it, you guys can also do it.”
Those who know them well, his bonding with Malik is there to be seen. “We are always together. When in Jammu, he is always at my home.”
Samad attributes the fast bowler’s rapid rise to his positive mindset. “He doesn’t think much. He doesn’t get demotivated and is a quick learner. He has picked things very fast and is doing well for himself and the country which is a big thing for us.
“Some people didn’t rate him. He has proved them wrong. The same people who at one point had laughed at him, now praise him. Looking at that, I feel happy. my dream to see him play well is realised.”