Two weeks after dazzling the cricket world with his score of 96 in the IPL final, B Sai Sudharsan, encouraged by his parents, went to the stands on the field in Coimbatore to meet scores of children. Witnessed by his proud parents Bharadwaj and Usha, who also recorded the moment on her phone, Sai Sudarsan snapped selfies and handed autographs to the kids who had just cheered off a 45-ball 86 for Lyca Kovai Kings in the TNPL T20 Championship.

There is a fresh air of confidence and calmness that is found around Sudharsan. The confidence is understandable, especially after the way he has enjoyed success across all formats in the domestic circuit, scoring a century on his Ranji Trophy debut, making three centuries in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and scoring 96 headliners for the Gujarat Titans in the IPL final against Chennai Super Kings.

β€œPersonally, nothing has changed for me,” Sudarsan said. β€œI’m starting to do routines. But there are a lot of changes from outside. I’ve learned a lot from this year’s IPL and I’m trying to work on it more and not focus on outside things,” says the 21-year-old.

There is a New Zealand hand behind all this desire to work on his game, to improve his shooting range. While Sudharsan has always had catches around the wicket, he is now adding switchers, paddle runners to his repertoire after keeping a close eye on Kane Williamson.

Kiwi is one of the players Sudarsan bonds with the most, as he wants to juggle shapes without changing his game too much.

β€œI relate to him (Williamson) because we have a similar style of play and do a similar role. I saw him practice and picked him up to scout the shots. He plays all three shapes and I want to improve in all shapes so learning from him is a big thing,” adds Sudharsan.

It was not only the similar style though that sealed the deal but the exceptional warmth from the New Zealander. Even though he got hurt, on the field, and had to go home for surgery, Williamson left one special message with the Gujarat Titans management: He told Sai to call me.

β€œSo even though he came home, he was always in touch with me, providing valuable feedback. He was telling me how to deepen the game and how to increase our capabilities with our limits,” says Sudarsan.

It wasn’t just Williamson. Australian player Matthew Wade turned out to be another batting mentor. In particular, in regards to the paddle shots – the weapon he used to help Australia win the 2021 T20 World Cup Final against Pakistan.

Wade, one of the best bowlers of scoops and ramps behind the wicket, was watching Sudharsan from behind the net before suggesting slight adjustments to achieve the perfect connection.

“Wade helped me a lot in that aspect. He plays it really well. And he was the one who showed me how to do it and why positioning is important. You have to be low to play the ball and your hands have to hit the ground when you drop. It’s hard for me to execute because I’m tall. “So the landing was a challenge, and even though I didn’t touch the ground, I’m a lot lower than when I started,” Sudarsan said.

Despite playing five matches at the start of the tournament, squad combinations and the Impact Player Rule prompted Sudharsan to warm up the bench before winning his place back at the works end.

β€œI ended up playing point balls and doing unwanted things. So it was more about sense of the game and tactical than it was technical. So I focused on that,” Sudharsan says of why he missed matches between them. So in the training sessions that followed, he was looking for a solution. “In practice, I tried to create situations with tight pitches and practiced how to spin singles from good balls and tight lengths so that when there was a bad ball, I could hit boundaries.”

Coach Gary Kirsten will also guide him on how to add more firepower to his T20 game. And with Williamson also showing how to do it without changing his game too much, Sudharsan learns the art of striking to the death.

“It was something I’ve worked a lot on during the tournament. I’m still not very good at it. It’s more about ideas on how to go over dead ends. It’s more about perceptions of what the pitcher is trying to do and being one step ahead of them. We can be more ready with the ball. It’s It’s more about positioning and making sure it doesn’t break. My hitting is about timing, so the stance has to be great from start to finish,” says Sudarsan.

After getting his big break in the 2022 IPL season, on a strong TNPL back in 2021, Sudharsan has had an impressive outing on the domestic circuit: three centuries in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, two in the Ranji Trophy including a debut. Sudharsan owes his success in the IPL to the domestic circuit, especially the Ranji Trophy, which has allowed him to play in varied conditions and attacks. β€œI think the important thing is to adapt. We play in different conditions, countries and climates. That helps us in the IPL. We played in Delhi, Mumbai. It was easier during the IPL. Learning and playing domestic cricket has given us the ability to adapt. Confidence in a decent season in Domestic cricket helped IPL this year.

Then came the performances of the stars in the IPL, and most importantly learning from the top foreign players. “It’s confirmation that I’m on the right track for the work I’m doing. I have a sense of belonging. When the T20 starts, there are doubts whether we can play and survive. Those doubts have been nullified. Maybe my decision-making has become better. Otherwise, nothing will change.” More selfies, more autographs, more congratulatory calls from New Zealand. All in a day’s work for a budding star.


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