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Exclusive | 'I Can Just Control The Controllable' - Priyank Panchal On His Test Omission, Team Management's Attitude And More

image-ljldbv0kPriyank Panchal [Twitter]

The defeat in the recently concluded World Test Championship Final has initiated a debate in the Indian setup. Former cricketers, pundits, and experts have started to express their opinions on how the Indian team management should now consider a transition, at least in the Test setup. 

Repeatedly, in recent years, the Indian batting has failed to deliver in tough situations. One solution to India's batting failure could be Priyank Panchal. The 33-year-old Panchal is a top-order batter with close to 8000 First-Class runs under his belt, alongside 26 centuries and 31 half-centuries that speak volumes about his prowess.

Panchal, who will soon be captaining West Zone in the Duleep Trophy 2023-24, has gotten a couple of India Test team call-ups. However, he has been unfortunate to earn his Test cap. Although the right-handed batter doesn't have any grudges about that, on the contrary, he is optimistic about getting his chance soon.

While chatting with OneCricket, Priyank said it was his fault when selectors dropped him from the Indian team after a rare failure (7 & 40 vs South Zone) in the Duleep Trophy final last year. He also shared his experience in the dressing room during the infamous South Africa series, what comments from veterans do to a player, his take on the current and former team management, and a lot more.

Here are the excerpts from the conversation with Priyank Panchal:

As a journalist, I would love to ask you and Abhimanyu Easwaran, you guys have been tonking runs consistently, but your name doesn't come into the reckoning. However, the case gets completely different for selective players - One good season, and they get to wear that India cap. How do you look at it?

Priyank: I think what is in our control is to score runs and be there, be there when our team needs us. That is what is in our control selection, and everything is not in our control. How others look at us, and look at me, is not in our control. So, yeah, I'm just trying to do whatever is in my control, and that is just working hard to score runs. That's the only thing that we can do both. That selection part is very difficult to say and difficult to portray because it's outside our hands what others are thinking. 

You got the call up for the South Africa series. How was that feeling?

Priyank: That was an amazing feeling. It was like a dream to be in the squad. Obviously, I was hoping for a chance but didn't get a chance. Although I got so much out of those tours, from South Africa and Sri Lanka series. I feel that I always say to myself, just hang in there for a while. Things will come. So, I'm just hoping that that thing will come someday.

You even made it to the team for the Sri Lanka series, but then you weren't in the squad for the Test versus Bangladesh. How do you see that? Were you given any reason by the team management or by the then-selectors?


Priyank: I thought I should have been there, but that was my mistake. There was one Duleep game where I couldn't score runs. So that was something I missed because we all think of being consistent. And then the team requirement is something you need to understand. That is one thing in my head, and I will definitely look at them. I will definitely love to learn about that part.

You were called into the team during the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri era, and then we saw you got to cut loose during Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid times, so how has the communication done by these two team management?

Priyank: I think about the second part (getting dropped by Sharma-Dravid-led team management); I was in the Indian squad for a couple of series with them. I was a reserve player with the team for four or five series.

At that time, some of them (openers) were scoring runs, and the place was not there. But I was determined. And when we went to South Africa, I scored 90-odd runs (for India A) against a good attack on a peppery pitch. But I don't have any regrets. I can just control the controllable.

Recently, India's Test squad for the West Indies tour was announced, which has initiated a huge argument in the media. Even Sunil Gavaskar sir opined on that, saying to stop conducting Ranji trophy as the selectors have to pick players from the IPL. What's your take on that, Priyank?

Priyank: I respect all of this, whatever he has said, because he has been a legend for India, but I think I have to say that for me, as a player and as a current player, I can just control the controllable. 

See, I cannot comment on the selection part, or I cannot comment on how things are working, but working hard and working on your game is important. Nowadays, it is important to work on each of the formats. If you're doing well in one format, you must also keep adding other skills in the rest of the formats. It's not like that only one format will guarantee success. You need to see that domestic cricket happens throughout the year, and a cricketer should concentrate on T20 & ODI formats and respect them equally. 

For me, it is like just improving yourself in three of the form completely out of our control. And (selection) is completely not in our hands, and frankly, as a cricketer and it's not easy (to face hardships).

You will captain the West Zone in the Duleep Trophy 2023-24? How has the preparation been? What do you intend to take away from the tournament, personally?

Priyank: The preparation has been really good. For the last 14-15 days, I've been training hard. I have been doing my fitness and everything. I've been regular with that. The past 14-15 days have been intense.

I'm looking forward to the domestic season, which will start on the 5th of July for us. I'm just looking forward to this season and am very much prepared for that.

You are fond of reading books. Apart from your attitude, has it helped you improve professionally?

Priyank: Yes, I have been a fan of reading for a long time. It's been 13-14 years now. Initially, it started because I wanted to take motivation from it; I wanted calmness inside me. Little did I know, I became a reading buff. Now, I have been a fan of reading autobiographies. I love reading cricketer's autobiographies. And you learn a lot from reading them. 

I will give you an example. Some time ago, I was reading Sunil Gavaskar sir's autobiography (Sunny Days: An Autobiography), in which he wrote that in Test cricket, you should learn how to get on the non-striker's end. If you want to face the new ball at the highest level, you must know how to tackle it. On a difficult track, if you face the entire over, the bowler will have six chances to get your wicket, but if you get on the other end, he'll get the opportunity to get you out just once. 

Plus, you can read what the bowler tries to do on the other five deliveries in that particular situation. That's one thing that I implement whenever I bat. 

You were with the Indian squad during a challenging South African series in 2021-22. How was that experience, and how different is an Indian dressing room compared to Gujarat's changing room?

Priyank: There, I got to know you to prepare as a Test cricketer. In the preparation, there is no drastic difference there. The skillset is the same, but you learn about working on your mindset there. I learnt that you have to be one step ahead of the opponent. Bowlers will try to get you out right from ball one at the international level, so you must know your strengths and weaknesses. That's what I learnt from that dressing room. 

You were part of the Indian squad during the South African series, which was full of dramas. Virat Kohli stepped down as Test captain in that series, and various other incidents occurred. Would you like to share the mood of that dressing room?

Priyank: I would not like to comment because it would be unethical to say something about that. It's also confidential.

image-ljldl4kpSouth Africa 21-22 was Virat Kohli's last assignment as Test captain (Twitter)

You have played with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. You have been in teams where they were captains. So any comments on them on how they conduct themselves?

Priyank: I love just love them. I love their energies. We all love them; we all would want to play with them. And more than that, I hope they keep on winning us many more games with them. They are doing really great. Virat, obviously, has set that benchmark for any youngster and even I was part of the NCA camp during our Under-15 days. I'm delighted to see him reaching that height. And, obviously, we get to learn so many things from both of them.

We know that a cricketer's career's shelf life is limited. There is just a span of 10-20 years where a professional could earn from his endorsements, contracts, or match fees per se. Have you started thinking about your second innings?

Priyank: Great question. I must say it is important as a cricketer or as an athlete, and you have to prepare for the, not only for your game because it's, after all, it's a game. So you have to look at it from that perspective. Sport is not your everything; it is everything, but it is not in a way. You have to work on your studies; you have to educate yourself. You have to think of other options along with your sport.

I was thinking about it, and it's been a very long since I've been thinking about it. I think the right time will say what I should do.