Bruised by the opening loss to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batsman Mandeep Singh is confident that the team is equipped to tackle surprise packages like Sunil Narine and Nitish Rana -- who hurt them the other day -- as they prepare to host Kings XI Punjab in an IPL tie on Friday.
RCB suffered a narrow four-wicket loss in their Indian Premier League (IPL) opener to KKR at the Eden Gardens with part-time off-spinner Nitish delivering back-to-back blows with the key wickets of skipper Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers before Narine starred with a 19-ball 50 to dash their hopes.
Mandeep, who struck an 18-ball 37 to help RCB reach a challenging 176/7, acknowledged that they were caught off guard when Nitish was handed the ball and the part-timer delivered with rich dividends.
"Nitish has bowled just one over till now, but has succeeded in taking the big fishes (Kohli and de Villiers). I think it was a gamble from KKR and it worked out well for them," Mandeep told IANS over phone.
"Narine has played quite a few important knocks against us. Our bowlers have a separate meeting where they will definitely discuss on strategies to tackle such surprises like Narine."
Asked if the team is equipped to handle such situations in the upcoming matches, Mandeep said: "We haven't discussed on such surprises but once you are in the field you need to tackle those tricy situations. We obviously have the potential to handle such situations."
Besides his personal form, Mandeep also counted on the other positives derived despite the loss.
"Personally I had a good start to the season but what's more important is the team's cause. We lost the match which definitely didn't feel nice," he said.
"But despite the loss, we can take the positives and move on. In batting, we did well to get to a good total, the fast bowlers also did a decent job but disappointed we couldn't get over the line," he said.
The Punjab batsman's journey in the IPL have been an inconsistent one. Having started his IPL career with KKR in 2010-11, Mandeep moved to Kings XI in 2012, where he ended up as the top run getter with 432 runs.
Mandeep stayed with the Kings till 2014 and since 2015 has been with the RCB but haven't yet shone as he would have wanted.
On being asked about his goals for the 2018 season, the right-hander said: "I am playing in the middle order this season, so the goal will be to contribute the most in both batting and fielding to the team's winning cause. Fielding is an important factor in this format and will also help in maintaining the energy in the team."
Despite being a top order batsman in domestic cricket, Mandeep, however came lower down at No.6 in Sunday's tie against KKR.
Asked if the change in batting position impact his role in the RCB side, the 27-year-old Mandeep said: "After the 2018 IPL aution, the RCB team management asked me to prepare myself to bat in the middle order. Obviously I prefer opening the innings, but I am open to bat at any number."
"For Punjab, I generally bat in the middle order in both four-day matches and one-dayers. So, the position doesn't matter much, what matters is my contribution to the team's win at the end of the day," he said.
The star-studded RCB line-up boasts of a power-packed top order comprising the likes of Kohli, de Villiers, Brendon McCullum and Quinton de Kock, followed by teenaged sensation Sarfraz Khan at No.5.
Mandeep, however has no qualms of coming after Sarfraz, who is yet to prove his mettle at the top level and instead praised the youngster for his exploits in domestic white ball matches.
"Sarfraz is one of the best young talents we have in Indian cricket. He has immense potential and is tailor-made for limited overs formats. I won't be surprised if he bats in the top four.
"I am sure he will definitely show his magic with the bat in the upcoming matches. I am ready to bat at any number," he said.
"In 2017, I was out of the game for more than seven months due to a back surgery. I feel fortunate enough to be back to the field and now looking forward to making the most of the opportunities," he added.
Mandeep also wants to use the ongoing IPL as a launchpad to make his comeback to the India side.
(Tridib Baparnash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)