What could be a terrific day for a cricketer? For a batsman it could be a day with a century, a bowler can dream of a 10-wicket haul (rarest of the rare) or close and an all-rounder can dream of a fair share of contribution from both, bat and bowl as well. The skipper of Himachal Pradesh and a dynamic all-rounder Rishi Dhawan with 3 wickets and 42 off 23 balls led his side to historic and maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy title in the recently concluded tournament.
With such an astonishing figure and captaincy skills, Rishi has cemented his prospect for his selection in the national squad and as his state coach, Anuj Das said will attract heavy bets from IPL franchises. Rishi Dhawan in an Exclusive telephonic conversation with SportsTiger, shared his thoughts on his recent successful domestic stint and his expectations from selectors. Excerpts from the conversation are as follows-:
Q) Rishi Dhawan we knew to Rishi Dhawan we know are actually very different. What actually brought this change? You have looked really consistent with both bat and ball.
Rishi: Frankly speaking, I am the same guy but with a more positive approach. And as they say, cricket is a team’s game, so if we are winning the games it’s because of the team. Each and every player in the team including me has played well which resulted in better results. Also, if other players in the team play well then captain is relaxed and can focus on his department too. So, that worked well with me. Each and every teammate realized their responsibility and helped us to win the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Q) While talking to SportsTiger, your coach Anuj Das regarded you as “next big thing,” in Indian cricket. How do you take that compliment?
Rishi: I am humbled and honoured if he feels so. I would like to thank him for his sheer commitment towards building this formidable team. He has been with us from quite some time now and has been there like a backbone.
Q) Kindly share the talk you had with boys in the dressing room after Tamil Nadu put on 300 plus on board.
Rishi: I just reminded players to stick to basics and don’t try to do anything extraordinary. Throughout the game we never felt that we are lagging behind. Despite huge total to chase we were always confident that if we implement the same techniques and basics which we did in the previous matches we will be able to win the match. And that’s the same thing I reminded players in the dressing room.
Q) Your all-round performance in Vijay Hazare trophy finals was vital in winning the match. Tell us about that day, what was going on in your mind?
Rishi: I played the whole tournament with a clear mindset. Anuj sir, our coach told me not to do anything fancy but take one match at a time and take the given responsibility. That’s what I did in the finals too. In the first innings, my job was to bowl well which I did and provided three important breakthroughs. While second innings demanded me to perform as a batsman to which I responded and luckily was able to contribute.
Q) As you were in sublime form in the tournament and played exceptionally well in the finals. Would you rate the final match as your best ever performance so far?
Rishi: Yes, undoubtedly. I was fortunate that I could contribute in all the departments, bowl, bat and as captain as well.
Q) Kindly elaborate on the significance of Anurag Thakur, the Union Cabinet Minister for Youth Affair and Sports?
Rishi: He is like God for Himachal Pradesh’s cricket fraternity and players, as well. He has provided us with quality infrastructure and motivated the administration to work in the welfare of cricket in the state. The ground in Dharmshala is a major example of that. His contribution is vital and we are in debt of him.
Q) You were considered for the South Africa tour as informed by the BCCI selector. Share your feelings when you are being considered for the national team but couldn’t make the cut.
Rishi: I am only focusing on my part, and how I can make my prospect stronger for the selection. Results are not in our hands, I can only control the process which I am doing. However, every player dreams to represent the country and so do I and it does feel sad to not make the cut. But now we have been trained in such a way that we overcome such situations and focus on our game.
Q) Being fast-bowling all-rounder demands extreme fitness. The fitness standards of this Indian team has gone up. How do you maintain your fitness as you play as bowling all-rounder and it demands extra care?
Rishi: I have always been a fitness enthusiast. Throughout my career, I have been regarded as one of the fittest guys in the squad. So, I meat proper diet and healthy diet. Staying positive even in tough situations work really well with me.
Q) You led HP to first-ever VHT title in 19 years. That must have given you a huge boost in confidence. But do you see yourself as a captain prospect at the top level?
Rishi: I can’t afford to think about these things, I am only focused on my game. And if any given responsibility I’ll operate accordingly.
Q) You categorize yourself in the aggressive captain category or amongst casual and calm ones?
Rishi: I play as per the situation. If needed to be aggressive, I won’t hesitate but would prefer to stay calm and compose and let the performance make the most of the noise.
Q) Highly anticipated IPL mega auctions are ahead. What’re your expectations? Reports are doing rounds of you joining Mumbai Indians, any thoughts to that?
Rishi: I am not much putting my mind to that but I am hoping to get the reward for my hard work. Also, Ill wish to get opportunities with the squad which picks me.
Q) If given a chance to choose your IPL franchise, for which franchise would you like to play and why?
Rishi: I can’t pick a single one. As I have played with Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab, and enjoyed my time with all of them. Also, they treated me really well.
Q) But, if you will have to pick your favorite franchise as a cricket’s die hard and not as player. Which franchise it would be?
Rishi: See, I like lot of franchises. CSK because of Mahi bhai and Mumbai also as I had a successful tenure with them.
Q) You have been phenomenal in the domestic game. When do you see yourself making a comeback in the national side.
Rishi: Very soon.
Q) You are considered amongst the prospects as a replacement of Hardik Pandya. Share your thoughts on the same.
Rishi: It would be unfair to me, if I start considering myself as someone else’s replacement. I am just enjoying the game and doing my part. I hope Hardik to get fit as early as possible as he is a terrific player too.
Q) Your ‘go-to-guy’ in Himachal Pradesh team?
Rishi: I consider everyone really close to me, we all have good mutual understanding in the dressing room. And everyone feels comfortable with each other, especially our coach Anuj sir would be my ‘go-to-guy.’
Q) Best India prospect from Himachal Pradesh.
Rishi: Prashant Chopra, Shubham Arora, Amit Kumar, Nikhil Gangta and many more.
Q) A piece of advice for a young cricket aspirant.
Rishi: Give your 100 per cent, and keep your mind crystal clear with what you want to achieve.