RP eyes new ball for India

Cape Town, May 04: RP Singh, who has been recalled to the India side for the World Twenty20 after being out of the India team for nearly seven months, has said he would like to take the new ball on his comeback in June. Forced out by a loss of form in subcontinent conditions, and kept there by shoulder and hamstring injuries, RP has bounced back during the IPL with commanding spells in both the Powerplays and the death overs.

“I will fit into the role the captain and coach want me to perform,” RP told Cricinfo. “[But] I think the new ball is a better option for me because I’m now doing well sharing the new ball even in the IPL.” If he does get the new ball, India will have to split the successful pairing of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. But they have done that before in limited-overs game, with Praveen Kumar getting the new ball ahead of Ishant.

RP has 12 wickets so far in the IPL, two fewer wickets than the current purple cap holder Yusuf Abdulla of Kings XI Punjab but having played one game less.

He is proud of having made the comeback. “It is not easy to come back. One has to wait for long, play a lot of matches and perform, but luckily I have been recalled once again,” RP said.

In 2008 RP was dropped after the first two games of the home ODI series against England, when he managed to pick up a solitary wicket. It was just a continuation of a bad patch that began in March 2008 with the home Test series against South Africa, where he went wicketless, followed by inconsistent performances in the Kitply Cup, Asia Cup and the ODI series in Sri Lanka. Even before his exit, sitting on the bench seemed to affect his confidence.

“Injuries pushed back my career. The constant niggles did not allow me to play consistently and my morale was down when I was sitting on the bench. I’m a rhythm bowler, and the more I play the better I do. I did not play much last year, which didn’t help.”

Even in domestic cricket he missed the crucial Ranji Trophy quarter-finals and semi-finals for Uttar Pradesh before managing a lukewarm return in the final, which UP lost to Mumbai, picking three wickets. But that did not dissuade RP, who had finished the third-best bowler (12 wickets at 6.33) in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup, held in South Africa in 2007. He continued with his rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.

“I did not think much about what was going wrong, but I just focused on the basics. I have developed some variations like the slower ball, which I am benefiting from,” RP said. If anything, sitting out has made him much smarter with the ball: “I now have a better understanding on which areas to bowl, what length to pitch and to bowl according to the situation. [This] only comes with experience.”

Back to his favorite South Africa, RP has peaked at the right time. “I’m proud that I am a contender for the purple cap at the halfway stage. It is a big responsibility, and I’m the senior bowler for [Deccan] Chargers,” RP said.

The World Twenty20 begins in England barely two weeks after the IPL, but RP reckons adapting to the English conditions would not be an issue in times when cricketers are comfortable living out of a suitcase. Incidentally, like South Africa, England has been a favourite place for RP, who on his last visit there put his name up on the Lord’s honours board with a five-for and played an integral role in the historic 1-0 Test series win two summers ago.

His form then could have swayed the selectors’s view now. Hardly so, according to RP. “That was the past. I don’t think that has played a part in my selection. In case they did look back, then, based on my form in the past I probably shouldn’t have been out.” Undoubtedly RP is still bitter about not being picked for the New Zealand tour, which he was “confident” about, but he took it in his stride.

His plans for the World Twenty20 are simple: play the mental game. “It is a totally batsman-dominated game, so mentally you need to be strong. The pitch doesn’t make much of a difference. What does matter is bowling to a plan and bowling to a field. Now I’ve become better and understand what fields suit my bowling.”