By Lokendra Pratap Sahi
Calcutta (The Telegraph): Sunil Narine, the one player to have had the biggest impact on the Kolkata Knight Riders’s fortunes in IPL-V, spoke to The Telegraph in the lead-up to Sunday’s final.
With 24 wickets in the bag, Narine stands an excellent chance of finishing the competition as its most successful bowler. Incidentally, he turned 24 on Saturday.
The following are excerpts
You’re a mystery off-spinner. Just how many variations do you have?
Probably two or three. I just try to use them as best as I can.
How are you guided in bowling the variations? Do you look at the batsman or look at the score?
I look at what risk I can take, but the team spirit also counts... A good team spirit gives you the confidence to do anything.
Variations hold the key...
(Eagerly) They’re important because the batsmen are getting better and better everyday. Cricket is for batsmen. Everything is going their way and the bowlers have quite a tough job. The more the weapons you have in your armoury as a bowler, the better for you in the long run.
Have you had a role model off-spinner?
Muttiah Muralidharan. I’ve always observed the way he bowls and the way he carries himself. He never gives up in any situation... Always believes in himself.
Did you get to speak to him in this IPL?
Didn’t anybody influence you in the West Indies?
Actually, I’ve learnt everything on my own.
I am living a dream, says Narine
Focusing on bowling in the right areas: Narine
Narine is a magician, says Gavaskar
My dream is to play Test cricket some day: Narine
I have a personal coach, but I’ll probably have to give credit to my dad, Shahid (who works in a restaurant), for making me bowl the knuckle ball.
Why did you take up spin bowling?
I used to bowl seam first, but I went to a tournament and didn’t get to bowl. That was in school... I then decided I should try something different. At the age of 17, I finally chose spin.
You’ve played such a huge role in the Knights’ success. When the IPL began, did you expect to play such a role?
I didn’t expect to do as well as I have done. I see this as a stepping stone. Hopefully, I can continue with this form.
How have you been handling the pressure?
I tend to focus on the game at hand and I try not to think about the crowd’s expectations. That’s because if you think too much about those things, you put yourself under unnecessary pressure. You cannot take five wickets or four wickets every day. In fact, there will be days when you will find it hard to take even two wickets. It’s all part of the game. Whatever the pressure, you try to give your best. That’s what counts.
The Knights’ captain, Gautam Gambhir, is a batsman... What has the experience been playing under him?
Gambhir is pretty calm, yet shows a lot of intensity on the field. He’s good when it comes to talking to the players and motivating them... He doesn’t put you under much pressure. He gives you the ball and says ‘Just focus on what you want to do’. He is very understanding and will ask you about the field you want... Gambhir does what is required for the betterment of the team.
Mental conditioning coach Dr Rudi Webster is a West Indian. Has that been of help?
Rudi played a big part in helping me to settle down. He always kept on asking me questions. By talking to me, he helped me to settle down. Having someone from the Caribbean, whom I could talk to, made it a lot easier for me.
What has this IPL taught you?
It has been a learning experience. I’ve been away from home for so long... I’ve had to adapt to the Indian culture, get used to the time difference. It has been a bit difficult, but I see every cricketer’s dream is to play in the IPL.
So, how would you describe this experience?
As an individual, it has made me stronger... I like to perform and don’t want to be a one-off... The experience has helped... I want to be like a Jacques Kallis, who has been playing for many years and still dominating the game... I’d like to be a Brendon McCullum... That’s my goal... Hopefully, I can follow in their footsteps. I might not be as good as them, but I should play top-class cricket at least for the next five years. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
Thanks to this IPL, are you looking at a Test call-up? So far, you’ve turned out for the West Indies only in the ODIs...
I’m definitely looking at playing Test cricket. It’s a dream to wear the white clothes. When the opportunity does come, I’ll grab it with both hands.
What has been the reaction back home?
I’ve getting the feedback, which is positive, from my mom (Christina, a housewife) and dad, who stay in Arima, which is about 45 minutes away from Port of Spain.
Your dad’s a Muslim and your mom a Catholic, but you have a Hindu name...
That’s because my dad named me after Sunil Gavaskar.
What have your parents been telling you?
That I’m in the papers every day and that everyone is backing me. Just thinking about everybody being behind me gives me a lot of motivation to do better and better.
Financially, how much of a difference has the IPL made to your life? Will there be a drastic change in your lifestyle?
Yeah... I’m not from such a high background. Our (Narine has an elder sister) lifestyle will be changing.
There’s this fear that sudden success may spoil individuals...
I always remember what my dad has said: ‘Keep your feet on the ground. You never know when things can go sour and you might need the same people to help you again get back to the top’.
Are you happy with the label of being a mystery bowler?
I don’t think I have a choice. It’s up to the commentators and the reporters... They have labelled me as the mystery man and I’ve taken it as a compliment. I hope I can continue being the mystery bowler!
Usually, the mystery men get sorted out in the next season. Are you worried about that possibility?
I’m not too worried because I think I’m capable of developing different things. Even if you sort me out, at the end of the day, you still have to play me. If one bowls in good areas, one will be successful. That’s my belief.
You’ve been doing just that...
Yeah, I’m pretty happy. When you’re doing well, things tend to be much easier for you. However, when you’re down, you learn the most. When you’re on the top, you just go with the flow and continue to do the things which you’ve been doing so well.
Today, what’s the future you are looking at?
To talk of the IPL, hopefully, I will be back one year from now. But, before that, I would love to play Test cricket. I hope to stay focused on the game.
Are you into another sport big time?
I like football and follow Barcelona’s fortunes. I watch the TV if an important game is on... I like to play table tennis.
If you hadn’t taken to cricket, what would you have been doing?
I have no idea. While growing up, the only thing I knew is cricket.
Do you keep track of your MoM awards (he has won three) and where will you be keeping the trophies?
When I go back, I’ll be buying a house. So, the trophies will be there... I’ve been staying with my parents thus far.
After almost two months in India, have you got used to speaking Hindi?
(Laughs) It is pretty hard to learn. Hopefully, I will learn it after spending some more time in India.
You’re fond of designer labels. What have you been buying?
I do like brands... Armani, Gucci... I have been buying a lot of designer clothes and footwear.
Lastly, there’s plenty of interest around your hairstyle...
I’ve have had this hairstyle for the last four-five years... It has brought me luck, so I’ll stick with it for as long as possible.