Shreyas Gopal was Rajasthan Royals' biggest positive in the recently concluded IPL 2019 which otherwise was a very disappointing campaign for the former champions. The Karnataka all-rounder finally announced his arrival at the big stage with some street-smart bowling and match-winning performances in this year's Indian Premier League.
However, one of them came in a game, which he turned on its head only to be disappointed later because of rain.
Gopal's heroics against Royal Challengers Bangalore will long be talked about and will perhaps be one of the best moments of his career if not the best in retrospect. But, many won't know that the 'perfect' hat-trick might have never been if not for the former Australia captain Steve Smith, who was leading RR at the M. Chinnaswamy that night.
Gopal sent a murderous Virat Kohli back at first and the very next ball saw AB de Villiers on his way back to the pavilion and in came Marcus Stoinis. In a five-over game, you would back the bowler to get a hat-trick if the situation arrives but it is easier said than done and same happened with the wrist-spinner.
"So, I went off to Steve Smith and asked him 'What do you think I should do because it is the hat-trick ball and do you think it is going to play on his mind?' He just told me that it is a five-over game and every ball is going to be a free-hit over here. You just need to bowl your best ball and he is going to take you down and will give you the chance to get a wicket but I don't think he will look to block it. So, there is no point in having an extra catching man as such and since it was a powerplay over, they had to go after me.
"If he hadn't told me, I probably would have messed up the field and done something different. So he just told me stick to your basics, finish the over on a high so that bowlers coming in to bowl the next over will have a little bit more confidence," Gopal revealed in an exclusive chat with IndiaTV.
Getting a hat-trick is no mean feat and when it involves Kohli and de Villiers, it is bound to be special but when the duo comes to you and congratulates you on your achievement, it gets better and it was a big thing for the 25-year-old.
"It was obviously a good feeling getting a hat-trick and getting out some of the best batsmen in the world who have ever played the game. So, that was a great feeling for me personally. Although we almost had that game and could have pulled off a victory but those are the small moments you have to cherish in the game along the way and then there will be moments that go against you. So, you just need to take it in your stride and not get too carried away with small things like these. It is, however, a big thing in my career but it's important not to get carried away and continue working hard.
"Honestly, they are very very approachable and they actually came to me and congratulated me after the game. It just speaks volumes about the person they are. Everyone knows that they are the best in the game but they are so approachable and so grounded that they actually came and spoke to me and that was a very big thing for me," Gopal gleed over the phone.
The Rajasthan tweaker also lavished praise on Smith, who he believes has an aggressive style and backed him throughout the IPL.
"It is great to play under him and he is one of the best batsmen in the world today and one of the most successful captains in world cricket today. He is a very aggressive captain and as a leg-spinner, you need to be thinking wickets and that's what he told me throughout this IPL season that you have to keep thinking wickets irrespective of which over you are bowling."
The backing clearly paid off as he returned with 20 wickets from 14 games and was one of the highlights of the season but he is not ready to get carried away and think about the future. For him, it is all about staying grounded and focusing on the process.
"It is important that I stick with the process and stick to working hard and giving my best in every game I play and not think too far ahead as that's when things get messed up when you are taking too far ahead. It is important to do what you are doing right now and enjoy the moment and stick to the process. What has to happen will happen."