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M Shahrukh Khan: 'I want to be the best version of myself wherever I go'

He credits Julian Wood for improving his power-hitting and maintains an underwhelming IPL hasn't shaken his confidence

Deivarayan Muthu
M Shahrukh Khan had an underwhelming IPL 2022  •  BCCI

M Shahrukh Khan had an underwhelming IPL 2022  •  BCCI

M Shahrukh Khan's patchy form with Punjab Kings in IPL 2022, where he managed only 117 runs in eight innings at an average of 16.71 and strike rate of 108.33, and the lack of consistent opportunities at the franchise, have not shaken his confidence, he says.
"Results might come and might not come, but I always bank on the process a lot," Shahrukh said. "I spoke to Abhinav Mukund [during IPL], and it hasn't affected my mind at all because I think I'm in my process and doing everything right. Sometimes it might come [off], sometimes it won't. The most important thing for me is whether I'm practicing well, training well and whether I'm in a correct mind space.
"Whatever team I play for, I try and do my best, irrespective of whether I get an opportunity or not. I just want to be the best version of myself whenever I go in - whether it's a practice session or the match. Today [at TNPL 2022] we had a practice session; I just wanted to be the best at that practice session. Opportunities come and go; the most important thing is to sharpen your skills at the right time. That's what I've been focusing on."
Shahrukh credited Julian Wood, a former Hampshire and Berkshire batter who was part of Kings' support staff as a power-hitting coach, for helping him fine-tune his skills by training with heavy balls as well as heavy bats.
"He uses heavy balls and bats to get some power and the bat-swing and to develop some strength in the forearm as well," Shahrukh said. "Power-hitting is something that comes naturally to me, so I don't want to work too much on that, and I have my technique when I power it.
"So, I'm good on my own in terms of power-hitting, but Julian Wood helped me in holding my shape and stuff. The balls that he uses are heavy. [They are] much, much heavier than cricket balls and you can't imagine the weight of that, and when you hit a ball it won't travel. I took a few points, and that helped me."
Shahrukh said he also benefitted from chats with England batters Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone about big-hitting.
"Punjab Kings this year was definitely a power-hitting team from top to bottom, till [Kagiso] Rabada. Being amongst these guys, [you pick up] a lot of points at the nets, the way they bat and the way they talk to you," Shahrukh said. "Jonny Bairstow and Livingstone have helped me a lot in the nets in terms of how to keep hitting consistently. The talks they have had with me, I am definitely carrying it along for a long time in my cricketing career."
While power-hitting continues to be Shahrukh's stronger suit, he has been working equally hard on his offspin in the past year. He used to be a regular bowling option during his Under-19 days, but a shoulder injury has limited that skill until recently. Shahrukh, who is leading Lyca Kovai Kings in the ongoing TNPL, is the most prolific spinner in the tournament with ten strikes in seven games at an average of 14.80 and an economy rate of 8.29.
"Bowling for me is natural as well," Shahrukh said. "I was bowling well in Under-19s and Under-23s and right from age-group cricket, but somewhere in the middle, I had a shoulder injury, so I couldn't roll my arm so often. Now that everything is on par, I'm working on my bowling…just working on conventional offspin. You know nothing different and just working on one stock ball - whether it's white-ball cricket or red-ball cricket. I just want to go and spin the ball as much as possible. If I can spin the ball nicely out of my hand, I think the ball and the wicket will do the rest for me."
Shahrukh was added to the India squad for the home ODI series against West Indies in February earlier this year but has since slipped down the pecking order. Deepak Hooda aside, India don't have batters in the top six who can bowl. So, does Shahrukh see a way back into the national side with his all-round skills?
"When you have two skills, it's always an advantage, and I'm not thinking [like] only if I work on my bowling, I'll be there [in the national team]," Shahrukh said. "Bowling and batting [are both] really important and I'm not thinking whether they pick me or do not pick me. I just want to be at it and do what I do best wherever I'm playing. I'm at the TNPL now, so I want to do what I can do for my team now."
Shahrukh also talked up Kovai Kings mystery spinner B Surya who had bowled at the Royal Challengers Bangalore nets in IPL 2022 even before he made his TNPL debut. The 25-year-old has multiple variations in his repertoire, including a back-spinning carrom ball, and his economy rate of 5.86 this season is the third best among bowlers who have bowled at least 20 overs this season.
"Surya has been doing really good for us," Shahrukh said. "Initially the first match he played, he didn't come out good. Obviously, it was his first TNPL game, but later on in the tournament as his nerves settled down… he has always been a bowler who can give us tight overs and the way he's gripping the ball he's able to land it on the right spot at the right moment. He has been putting pressure on the opposition, new batsmen that come on strike. His progress has been very good and hope he can deliver for us [in the knockouts too]."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo