That’s true. According to ESPNcricinfo’s logs, Shreyas has a good strike rate against the short ball – 135.44. And almost 20% of the fours he’s hit (34 out of 191) in his ODI career have come off short balls. The thing is, he also averages 21.40 against the short length, which means in the process of going for these big shots, he’s getting out a lot.
Shreyas’ argument, though, is that’s life as a batter. “You know if you try to hit a ball, you’re bound to get out anyway whether it’s a short ball or overpitched. If I get bowled two or three times, you all would say he can’t play an inswinging ball, he can’t play if the ball is seaming. You guys have created that mahol [feeling] outside that he can’t play a short ball, and I feel that people are picking that up every now and then and it plays on your mind regularly and you keep working on that.
“Coming from Mumbai, especially from Wankhede, where the bounce is pretty much even and you know it bounces way more than any other pitches. I’ve played a majority of my game here. So I know how to tackle it. It’s just that when I go to hit some shots you are bound to get out and sometimes it may work sometimes it may not. Majority of the time it hasn’t worked for me, maybe that’s the reason you think it’s a problem for me, but in my mind I know there’s no problem.”
Teams are trying to bounce Shreyas out. In this World Cup, he has faced 107 balls from the quicks and 51 of them have been short or short of a good length. He’s scored 60 runs off those 51 deliveries, with seven fours and a six, and got out twice.
“There’s a lot of talk in the media, which all of you do,” Shreyas said. “But I am confident about my game and myself, and I am serious enough to play certain deliveries. I may get out again and again, but I don’t mind, to be honest. As long as I believe in myself and my team-mates are confident about me. They support me, and that’s all that matters, that’s what motivates me.”
There was one other thing that’s been rubbing him the wrong way. Shreyas came into this game with one fifty from his last six innings. He began the World Cup with a duck. He also missed out after getting set twice – 19 against Bangladesh and 33 against New Zealand.
“It was playing on my mind right from the start. I was getting tremendous starts in the first few games but I wasn’t able to capitalise. Today I just told myself if it’s there in my area, I was just going to take the bull by the horns and fortunately it worked for me. I hope that it keeps on working for me in the future as well because the team is in a great space at the moment and the players are cherishing each other’s performance and that is very important when you come in such a big stage.”
Having come into bat only in the 30th over, Shreyas was close to scoring a century. There were 16 balls left in the innings when Dilshan Madushanka hid the ball outside his reach and had him spooning a catch to cover.
“This is the stage where you play for the team. You don’t play for your individual performance. We definitely discuss about missing out on centuries or half-centuries. But going forward, say if we are put in a similar situation, I would have to take on the bowlers. If I was batting in the 47th or 48th over, I won’t be thinking of the century. I was sighting the ball pretty well. It’s just that I missed out on that particular ball. It was a little away from my body and Madushanka was bowling brilliantly, bowled with the new ball and also he came in with the old ball varying his pace, he bowled smart. Talking about our performances, we definitely discuss it. A few balls here and there I could have got to hundred. Nevertheless there are a few more matches to come. I hope I’ll be able to get one. “
Shreyas raced against the clock to recover from a back injury and play this World Cup. He’s now made a match-winning contribution that sealed India’s progress into the semi-finals. Looking back on the year he’s had, he felt a bit of vindication.
“I was longing to come back to the team and looking at all my team-mates playing was a difficult situation to be in. I am thankful for where I am and I also want to thank myself for working hard to be here with the team. I know the grind and the preparation I went through.
“It was a difficult time coming out of injury, especially when it comes to fielding. I wasn’t able to move as I used to before. But the trainers and the physios have worked pretty hard on me in terms of recovering after the games because 50-overs takes a lot of toll on your body. Once you get used to it as an athlete, you focus more on the recovery aspect. It is crucial for me, especially at this point of time when I’m playing consecutive matches, how I go back to the dressing room after the matches, how I train, all these aspects are critical. I just keep ticking the boxes in terms of preparation and see to it that when I come to the game, I’m 100%.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo