Still remember how much I cried… I couldn’t digest it: How rejection in 2023 turned Shashank Singh into an IPL superstar | EXCLUSIVE – News

“Hi, I’m Shashank, and this is where Mark is. These were Shashank Singh’s lines in one of the Punjab Kings’ pre-season videos, filmed with a few social media influencers to save it for future reference. He was seen as someone who unexpectedly ended up in the Punjab Kings camp in what seemed to be a chaotic situation at the player auction in Dubai.

After getting things clarified, Shashank let his bat do the talking. The Chhattisgarh batsman emerged as the top scorer for PBKS in the 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) with 354 runs in 14 matches, with a strike rate 164.65. He will be remembered for his explosive innings against Kolkata Knight Riders, which helped Punjab achieve the most successful chase in the history of the tournament.

This was the season Shashank had been waiting for. After a satisfying season, the 32-year-old had a brief chat with News18 CricketNext, where he discussed his last few months with Punjab Kings, the hard work he has put in, and his aspirations to play for Team India.

Here are excerpts from the interview:
You have emerged as the star of Punjab Kings in 2024. How have the last 2 months been for you?
I can’t thank my owners, support staff, and teammates enough. Being given an opportunity as a local player from the first game was a big deal. I have been part of franchise cricket before, but this time I got a chance right from the beginning. The management, my teammates, and even the foreign players supported me a lot.

I knew I had to make it count this year. Last year, when I was not in the IPL, I worked hard on my fitness, power hitting, and some shots. I think it paid off. I am very thankful to God that the last two months have gone well. But then, I am a little disappointed with how we finished in the points table because of the talent we had in our team. I don’t think we lived up to our potential.

Playing all 14 matches and finishing as the top scorer; did you expect such an IPL season?
I was 100% waiting for an opportunity to see if I could move up the rankings a bit. When I was at SRH, I had the finisher’s role but I didn’t get as many balls because the top order was doing really well. But this year I got an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. I wanted to do well for the team and help us win. I’ve succeeded sometimes and failed a few times, but that’s a learning experience for me.

I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to cement my place. I still don’t know if I did, but yes, I am very satisfied.

Was your knock against GT, against KKR in the highest run chase in IPL history and all the key contributions you made during the season a reflection of not being selected last year?
Absolutely. I still remember it and it gives me goosebumps when I talk about it. I will be very honest with you. It was the 22nd of December, if I’m not mistaken, when I wasn’t selected in the auction, that was the most depressing moment of my life. I still remember how much I cried.

I was sitting all alone in my mother-in-law’s Inn and just wandering around Connaught Place in New Delhi. I couldn’t digest it. Everything was fine before that. I had a decent season (with SRH) at home as well.

It also depends a little on the stars. And this year I succeeded, which made me mentally stronger. I had family support. They knew I had everything to play at the highest level.

Whenever I was there to bat, I was reminded of last year’s rejection. I made sure to do my best whenever I got the chance.

Are you showing off your innings or winning games for your team?
Yes, I aim to win matches for my team. But you never imagine unreal things, like the chase against KKR. It was an unreal thing; by Jonny and Prabha[simran]. And to some extent by me too. I never in my wildest dreams thought that any team could chase down 260 in some 18 odd overs.

Those things were unreal, but then it showed how talented we were as a group.

Now that you’ve had your best season with the bat, do you think the franchise would keep you when the mega-auction follows?
As a human being, your mind must have such thoughts. I won’t deny it. But again, being present is the best. Like even when I hit, I sometimes think about what’s next. But at the end of the day, you need to be present and focus on the next ball rather than the next end.

So yes, I do have thoughts like that, but they disappear as quickly as they appear. And I believe in God. So whatever is written in my destiny, it should definitely be good.

Tell us about the role of your Chhattisgarh coach, Hitesh Goswami. He told CricketNext that he helped you discover the spark within you. How much did he push you to do your best?
I played well, but I didn’t realize what I was capable of. Sometimes you need someone to tell you what to do. So that’s when Hitesh sir came and told me what position to bat and what shots to play. He instilled that confidence in me and also helped me a lot with my technical stuff.

He was also a scout for the Punjab Kings and recommended my name, not just once but several times. He was very sure that if n”

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