Ranji Trophy 2018: Gujarat’s Priyank Panchal makes it a day to pen down

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Priyank Panchal scored 112 off 109 balls. (File)

A night before he slammed an unbeaten 112 to take Gujarat to a famous win over Mumbai, Priyank Panchal wrote in his diary: “How I will ensure Mumbai’s bowlers lose the shine early in the morning.” A diary-addict for years now, Panchal didn’t want to pen down anything too extravagant. He knew they might have to chase a total over 200 (they were eventually set 203 after Mumbai folded up on the final morning), and knew he would be the key if Gujarat were to chase it.

He knew it won’t be easy. After all, the pitch had been very seamer-friendly and the reason why Mumbai had struggled in the game. He had a game plan, though. “As long as the ball was hard and retained shine, there was bound to be some seam movement. But I wanted to take some initiative and bat with a slightly higher strike rate so that things get easy in the middle. Put the pressure back on them.”He slammed 11 fours and three sixes, and his partnership with fellow opener Kathan Patel (55), ensured Gujarat didn’t lose their nerves.

Not long ago, MS Dhoni had a valuable advice for him: “Jo dil se khelta hai uske shots se hi pata chalta hai (he who plays with his heart, his shots become a reflection of his passion).”Panchal isn’t your regular cricketer. A diary-keeper, voracious reader who digs sports autobiographies in particular — just finished Justin Langer’s book — he spends the match evenings in his room, keeping mostly to himself, pondering over ways to keep improving himself. He lost his father, a passionate cricket fan and a university-level cricketer, when he was just 15 but the women in his life helped him pursue cricket. His mother Diptiben started fashion designing and later, his elder sister Brinda too started earning.

Despite consistent performances Panchal was snubbed atleast for India A. After he scored more than 1,300 runs in 2016 season, he was picked for India A but subsequently selectors haven’t given him a second chance.

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“I felt bit disappointed that despite being consistent in the past three seasons, I was picked for India A only once. I don’t keep goals as it can distract. It’s better to take things as it comes. I never write I will score this much runs or this many hundreds because I know I can score more runs than what I’m about to write,” Panchal said.

To prove how things have changed he says he can sense match situations much better these days. Reading books have helped him to achieve that, he says.

“I read Adam Grant’s, Original, I have just completed Justin Langer and I am reading Andrew Strauss now. I carry three to four books while traveling. I can relate to these people’s instances. Look how Australia dominated the world. I was curious to know what was the driving force and what went through their minds. The effort they put,” he says.

Gujarat have won all their last three games against Mumbai. Ask him what he will write tonight, after registering the hattrick win, he says, “I will write how we cracked this game after being behind the first two days. Then how we came back. After all, these kinds of special days don’t come too often.”

Brief Scores: Mumbai: 297 &187 (Aditya Tare 59, Shivam Dubey 55, Chintan Gaja 4-57) lost to Gujarat 281 & 206/1 (Priyank Panchal 112 not out, Kathan Patel 55) by nine wickets.

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