In a world that is mean to fingerspinners, accuracy has been Washington Sundar's calling card. Having recovered from a "complicated" ankle injury in 2018, Washington is back in India's T20I mix, in the lead-up to the World Cup next year in Australia. A day before joining India's T20I side for the three-match series against West Indies, the reigning world champions in the format, Washington spoke to ESPNcricinfo about his comeback and his new-ball role.
You've become a powerplay specialist in T20 cricket. How have you got used to this role?
It's a difficult job to do in T20s. To hit the right length is very difficult and of course errors will happen. It's a tough job, but that's something that excites me as well. It's challenging to bowl to both right-handers and left-handers in the powerplay and I have enjoyed it ever since I was given that role in T20s about two-three years back.
How do you work out that right length?
Adapting to different wickets is definitely very important. Hitting awkward lengths to every batsman might not be a great option. You need to figure out what works against that particular batsman and that is what I feel is important as a powerplay bowler.
Your offspin is usually used as a match-up against left-handers. Does the mindset change against right-handers?
Definitely, the mindset differs for me. And it varies from batsman to batsman as well. One might be strong on the off side and the other maybe strong on the leg side. Especially at this international level, there's no margin for error and it's important to do your homework. You need to be really precise with the lengths and lines you want to bowl.
So what homework do you do?
Basically, you keep practising. It is practice that makes your execution better and gets it to a higher percentage. Just doing the same thing all over again might not be the best option against certain batsmen, so you have to change your lines and lengths depending on the batsmen.
Can you recall any such homework or plan that set up a batsman for a dismissal?
I can't pinpoint one. There are analysts in every team - even in the state team - and the data and information they give also help us. You come up against several different oppositions, so I don't honestly recall one. Generally, the video analysis and data analysis all help in various tournaments.
Have you looked at experimenting at all, like wristspinners do?
No, I haven't thought about it so far.
How do you respond when a batsman goes after you?
The clearer you mindset is, the calmer you can be when you bowl. If you know what you want to do, you don't generally think about too many things. You only think about execution. It's just about that clarity of thought and not having too many other things in my mind that helps me.
When did you first take up this new-ball role? Did it begin at Rising Pune Supergiant?
I'd taken the new ball even when I was playing the lower-division league in Chennai. I really enjoy the challenge of bowling with the new ball.
You were initially a batting allrounder and batted up the order even in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. Has bowling taken over?
I just want to contribute in whatever opportunities I get and win games for the team. I consider myself as an improving allrounder only when I am able to win games for my team. That only will give a player confidence. So, wherever I may get an opportunity, I will have to do well with bat and ball.
You batted well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s on tough tracks. How did you adjust?
Like I said, even while batting it's about the clarity in thought. Once you assess the pitch, you will have a clear thought and you have a better chance of being successful. I've always wanted to be that kind of a person and cricketer who has clarity in thought and understands what needs to be done for the team.
You injured yourself playing football last year. How did you cope?
I couldn't believe that I'd be bed-ridden for four-five weeks after that injury. I've never been that way before. It was the reality and I just couldn't do anything. Probably, I feel I had to go through that phase and experience it in my life to grow. But I was very fortunate to get through it, thanks to my family and my physio and trainer - Rajinikant and Thulasi Ram.
They worked so hard on me. Day in and day out, I was training with them to get fitter - two-three hours in the morning and then two-three hours in the evening. My injury was kind of complicated, no actually it was very complicated, and needed a lot of time and attention. When I came out of the injury, I became fitter and in a very better shape and better space.
Then the injury returned on the A tour of New Zealand...
Yes, it was a recurrence of that injury. I needed more, at least two months of rehab. Thanks to Rajinikant and Thulasi Ram, I got fit again. That rehab helped me become much fitter. Fitness has become one of the most important things in cricket now and over the last year I've played across formats injury-free and without much niggles, which is a positive sign.
You had missed out on the 50-over World Cup. Do you have one eye on the T20 World Cup now?
I just want to stay in the present and not think too far ahead. Definitely, playing for India in a World Cup is a dream, but for now I just want to work on my game and stay in the present.