Sai Sudharsan feels better game awareness and execution has led to remarkable consistency

New Delhi, May 12 (PTI) His talent has always been unquestionable but what has stood out for young Gujarat Titans southpaw Sai Sudharsan in this IPL is his impressive game awareness and decision making, traits he picked up during his maiden India stint in South Africa last year.

The 22-year-old, who proved his worth at the highest level with two ODIs fifties in his debut series in South Africa last December, has shown remarkable consistency for Titans in the top-order.

With 527 in 12 games at a decent strike rate of 141.28, the Tamil Nadu batter finds himself among the top-five run getters at this stage of the competition. He season was going solid but it took a special hundred on Friday night for the cricketing world to take notice of his T20 skills.

The joint highest 210-run opening stand between Sudharsan and Shubman Gill kept Titans alive in the tournament.

The southpaw was picked by Titans for his base price of his Rs 20 lakh ahead of the team’s debut season in 2022 but came of age the following year. He has now taken his game to the next level.

“There’s not much change in my batting (compared to last season), but yes the decision making, the game awareness or knowledge of the game has improved. So that is helping me a bit to (stay consistent),” Sudharsan told PTI in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

Power hitting is a pre-requisite in the modern T20 game but Sudharsan relies on his timing to get the job done. Compared to last year, he is being able to put himself in better positions against world class bowlers.

“My batting is all about timing and (stable body) position. I’ve tried to hold on to both. So, I feel that execution part has got better because I got so much insights and knowledge from last year. “

“I was finding it difficult to dominate each and every bowler (last year) so that gave me an opportunity to get better in my batting.”

Back to back fifties in his debut series for India and that too in South Africa also gave him tons of confidence. He is not part of India’s T20 plans at the moment but could be an integral part of the ODI squad going forward.

“It was very special for me, playing for the country against South Africa and it became a memorable game as well. So yes, it has given me like knowledge about how international cricket works and where you have to improve as a batter, otherwise you cannot sustain yourself,” he said.

Strike rate important in T20s but main goal is to cross the line

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In a season, where power hitting has been redefined with the likes of Travis Head, Abhishek Sharma and Sunil Narine striking in the 200 range, Sudharsan is comfortable in his skin.

“The way the game is going strike rate is definitely important but what I believe is we have had 160 (total) games, we have had 140 (total) games, we have had 170 (total) games. So I think the main goal is to cross that line.

“If we are chasing 240 or 250, the requirement is more. Reacting well to the situation is key. If we think about the strike rate in advance, we won’t be able to play the situation well,” felt Sudharsan.

Sudharsan also revealed that a chat with superstar Virat Kohli on the sidelines of Titan versus RCB game also provided him clarity.

“I had a conversation with Virat Kohli and Mahi Bhai (Dhoni) after the last game. With Virat, it was not so intricate. I spoke about the Power play with him How to take on the bowler with minimal risk.

“With Mahi bhai, I spoke about how to manage when we don’t score runs and when we score runs, how to be the same.”

Enjoyed the six over extra cover the most

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During his sublime ton against CSK on Sunday, the lofted extra cover drive off Shardul Thakur on bent knee stood out.

“I really enjoyed that shot over extra cover. But what I enjoyed the most was that intensity and the intent in which me and Shubman played,” said Sudharsan whose hundred celebration was rather subdued compared to Shubman’s with the skipper having a point to prove after being left out of the T20 World Cup squad.

How was it like to be part of a record partnership that night?

“I’ve been playing with Shubman for the past three years now, so we’ve been had many partnerships, we’ve been having many conversations off the field about cricket as well. He is a very, smart and skillful cricketer.

“The last game against CSK he was something else. He had that fire in his eyes. I could see the difference from ball one where he wanted to prove a point.”

Surrey invites Sudharsan for County Championship again

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Sudharsan was part of Surrey’s Championship winning side last season and he is looking forward to another season in the UK post the IPL.

“They’ve (Surrey) asked me for my availability. If we don’t have anything in that bracket (schedule in India), I will definitely go for the same county team this year as well.

“It was a great experience to be honest because it was a new set-up, new conditions, different wickets, different balls. It was my second time in the UK but first time for red ball also. I had conversations with batters there on how we can play the red ball better when it’s swinging,” Sudharsan concluded.

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