Sports

Daniel Sams uses time out of the team ‘to focus and reflect on what I do well’

Redemption is sweet. Exactly a month ago, Daniel Sams was crestfallen as Pat Cummins walloped him for 35 runs in an over enroute the joint-fastest IPL fifty (off 14 balls) to snatch a win away from the Mumbai Indians. The onslaught would consign Sams to the bench for the next two weeks.

Now, in a space of seven days, Sams had made two telling contributions as Mumbai have recorded back-to-back wins after a string of eight consecutive losses. Six nights ago, he came in to bat in the final over with Mumbai needing 4 off 5 and walloped a six to seal the deal. On Friday, he delivered a terrific final over, where he mixed his lengths and pace to deny David Miller and Gujarat Titans the nine runs they needed to seal a playoff berth.

“It was a good time for me to reflect on those games, but also reflect on what I do really well,” he said of the time he spent on the sidelines after the Cummins onslaught. “I noticed that in those two games [early in the season], I wasn’t really committing to what I do really well. I was more thinking about the batter, so it gave me time to work on and think about things I do really well and execute those in the game, and it seems to be working since I’ve gotten back in the team.”

The first ball was a single to deep point. The next was a slower-ball dot to Rahul Tewatia. The third was a run out as Tewatia attempted a risky second. The fourth was dug into the pitch, but by denying Rashid Khan any pace, Sams forced him to pull the ball towards the bigger boundary.

Rashid managed just one to bring it down to 7 off 2. Then Miller was beaten by two consecutive slower deliveries – the first one nearly a wide, the second a dipping slower ball that had Miller swinging and missing.

“That was the plan, particularly in the last over: to focus on what my best ball is,” Sams said. “To kind of change the length a little bit. But it was to kind of keep the ball away from him [Miller], bowl it nice and slow, and hopefully get a little bit of dip.”

Sams explained the rationale behind the last two balls to Miller. The first of those was just inside the wide line. Miller was looking to reach out to scythe the ball behind square but missed. All along, it seemed as if Sams knew what he was doing.

“It’s one of those things that we actually talk about,” Sams explained. “If you’re going to miss [the wide line], bowl a wide. Don’t bowl the other side of the wide line because there’s every chance the batter may hit it for six. We’d rather go for a wide and commit out there, because there’s every chance the batter may hit it and you get away with it.

“There’s been a couple of games where I’ve bowled a few wides in a row, but that’s one of the things we talk about and we’re happy to commit to it. Sometimes it might not go our way but more times than not, it will go our way. That’s one of the things I push on the side and focus on the ball I’m trying to execute.”

Sams is in his third IPL stint. Having previously been with Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, he’s now trying to establish himself at Mumbai. Seven games have brought him seven wickets, but at a high economy of 9.66. In a season where not much has gone right for the team, he has blown hot and cold. But he is constantly looking to improve.

“I guess in the last two games I haven’t been too nervous, I’ve been calm,” he said. “Nerves were there earlier on in the tournament. But being able to have the time to focus on and reflect what I do really well [when he was left out] have been able to help me in these last few games. If I am committing to the plans we have and if it doesn’t go out way. I can live with that. That helps with the nerves, committing to what you plan to execute.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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