All-rounder Vijay Shankar being picked as India’s No.4 batsman for the World Cup saw the birth of the biggest debate to engulf Indian cricket in recent times. Former cricketers and pundits have had their say and many believe that Ambati Rayudu or Rishabh Pant would have been a better option. But then, the five wise men — national selectors — clearly thought otherwise when they felt that Shankar fits the bill. Interestingly, criticism and Shankar have a history. They go hand-in-hand, to be honest. Not many cricket fans in the country would have forgotten the all-rounder’s struggle against Bangladesh in the final of the Nidahas Trophy and the hate reaction that followed on social media after Shankar struggled with the bat during India’s chase and ended with a 19-ball 17. Even though India won the game, Shankar was made to relive the horror of his innings again and again by media and fans. But every dark cloud has a silver lining.

Speaking to IANS, Shankar said that it was a life lesson and one that made him a stronger human being who realised the importance of enjoying the moment and not putting too much pressure on himself on the cricket field. In fact, he also says that not many realised that it was just his first outing with the bat as an India player. “I would definitely say the Nidahas Trophy was a life-changing experience as a cricketer for me. It has been a year and everyone knows what happened and how difficult it was. “I would have easily attended 50 phone calls from all over India. The press people kept calling me and asked me the same question. Even the social media and all was a little difficult for me, I felt a little disappointed and took me some time to get out of that zone.

“But on the hindsight, it taught me how to come out of that, learned how to handle situations. That incident showed me that one bad day isn’t the end of the world. It hasn’t happened only to me, has happened to many top players over the years. “The best thing is that it happened on my first outing with the bat. I had bowled in the series, but that was the first time I went in to bat. I didn’t realise what happened right then, but that was a life lesson. It taught me to enjoy every moment as things as such episodes are temporary and I must focus on giving my 100 percent,” he explained.

Coming back to the much-debated batting slot in the World Cup, Shankar has learned to de-stress and not get bothered by what is being said around him. For him, it is the team management that counts. “I had a decent run when I batted at No.3 in the T20 series in New Zealand. The most important thing is that the team management has shown trust in me and believes I can do the job. That gives you extra motivation. The need for the team is my priority and I am always ready to adapt to situations and conditions.

“I am enjoying myself and don’t put any pressure on myself. I like to read the situation and play accordingly. I give importance to work ethics and there is no shortcut,” he smiled. Asked what exactly has the feedback been from the seniors and head coach Ravi Shastri, Shankar doesn’t wish to divulge much and says that he is a keen observer and looks to imbibe as much as he can when he is around the senior players in the team.

“First of all to be a part of the Indian team is something we all dream about when we start playing. I am someone who looks to imbibe things from Kohli, Mahi Bhai or Rohit. I always believe in watching and learning from them. I have interacted with them to help me improve as a cricketer. They have told me that I am doing my job and the focus should be on keeping things simple,” the 29-year-old said. Comparisons with the team’s numero uno all-rounder Hardik Pandya is bound to happen and even before one brings in the topic of how his bowling could be needed in English conditions, Shankar says that he has been working on his bowling.

“I have been working a lot on my bowling and I am someone who believes in keeping the process right. I feel that if the situation arises when the skipper hands me the ball, I should be confident that I can do the job and only then will that translate into performance. It is all about gaining in confidence with every given opportunity,” he pointed.