Left-arm spinner Sai Kishore, whose two-anda-half year wait for an IPL cap ended in the 2022 season, was a mainstay in the Gujarat eleven in the second half of the competition. Young batter Sai Sudharsan gave a good account of himself whenever called upon. In an interview with Shrivathsan S for DT Next, Sai Kishore and Sai Sudharsan spoke about the title-winning IPL campaign and more.
On going all the way with Gujarat Titans
■ I play every tournament with the motive of winning it. I do not really care about my individual stats. But having said that, I want to get better. The year after winning the title (Indian Premier League 2023) will be harder, so the road to get better starts today.
On bagging back-to-back IPL trophies
■ To win two titles [in succession] is special. I won my first trophy with CSK (Chennai Super Kings) last year, but I did not get to play a match. It feels better when you play and win. It is good to start a legacy for a team (Gujarat) that is in its first year. It (the IPL 2022 title) will give the local crowd a lot of joy.
On being eased into the eleven for the business end of the competition
■ I was told that I would play when there is help from the wickets (surfaces). Since I did well as the tournament progressed, I created a spot for myself in the team (eleven). The team atmosphere was pretty good. They (support staff) had a lot of trust in the players.
On his performance against Rajasthan Royals in the final
■ We had a dilemma about the fifth bowler. Hardik [Pandya] bowled superbly, so I did not get to bowl in the middle overs. There was a phase where I was given the opportunity. I always play for the team and the results (two wickets) were good.
On bowling at the death overs in the summit clash
■ I am capable of bowling in all phases [of the innings]. I had done it (bowling in the end overs) before. So, I was prepared and I was clear in my execution. I did not have any nerves [when the ball was thrown at me ahead of the 16th over].
On operating in tandem with leg-spinner Rashid Khan
■ He is one of the best [bowlers] in the world. He does not usually concede many runs in the middle overs. I look at myself as one of the best [bowlers] in the world. The number of matches I have played at this level may not suggest so, but I have the skills. When we bowled together, we tried to put immense pressure on the opposition.
On his IPL 2022 campaign
■ It feels good to contribute, but I did not deliver my best. I could have been a lot better, but not in terms of [honing] my skills. As I am new to this level, I did not know much about a few players. With time, I will get better. They (performances) do not surprise me because I have been doing well [in white-ball cricket] for some years now.
On the Titans family
■ We had a relaxed environment. All the support staff and players had trust in each other. We (the players) were given the freedom and were backed well. None of us [at Gujarat] are superstars; we are trying to make a name for ourselves. Hardik is a great captain; he is a player’s captain. The team environment was similar to what was there in CSK last year.
On clinching the Indian Premier League crown
■ Maiden IPL season for me. Debut season for the franchise. We could not have done anything better. Winning the title in our first year is a massive achievement. I played five matches. I am delighted to have contributed to the team’s success. I, as a newcomer [to the League], feel extremely happy to have won the trophy on the first attempt. I would say it (winning the IPL title) is a mini milestone in my career.
On what he felt after lifting the IPL trophy
■ There was a sense of satisfaction as I played a part in the team going all the way. Winning titles always gives you satisfaction. After celebrating our victory, we also thought a bit about next year, where we will defend our title.
On watching the Gujarat Titans-Rajasthan Royals final from the sidelines
■ The atmosphere was extraordinary. It was the first time I saw such a crowd (referring to the attendance of over one lakh). The Narendra Modi Stadium (in Ahmedabad) is massive. It was really exciting to catch the action [from the dugout]. I also enjoyed the mini concert by AR Rahman sir, who performed for about 10 minutes [in the closing ceremony]. Singing the Indian national anthem prior to the match gave me goosebumps.
On getting game time – five matches – in his debut season
■ There were lots and lots of learning, be it during practice sessions or matches. I am thankful to (captain) Hardik [Pandya], (head coach) Ashish Nehra and the management for giving me the opportunities. I did not expect to get them in my first season. Whenever I got an opportunity, I tried to contribute my best to the team.
On his maiden IPL half-century against Punjab Kings
■ We were under pressure as we lost early wickets. I had to take the innings deep; that was my goal. As I had said earlier [in an interview with this newspaper], every kid dreams of playing in the IPL. Many of us grew up watching the IPL. So, scoring a fifty was special.
On working with head coach Ashish Nehra and skipper Hardik Pandya
■ I learnt something unique from him (Nehra) – each player is different and only they know what they require. Hardik has a strong personality and carries a lot of confidence. He always kept the dressing room happy. Winning five IPL titles (four with Mumbai Indians and one with Gujarat) is special, so it was great to play under him.
On sharing the Titans dressing room with his Tamil Nadu teammates R Sai Kishore and Vijay Shankar
■ It (2022) was my first year in the IPL set-up. Before joining the team, I did not know how it (the set-up) would be. Sai Kishore and Vijay Shankar anna were there for me throughout. They were there, be it when I had doubts or faced some problems. Only because of them was I able to comfortably adapt to the environment. They gave me a lot of confidence at the beginning [of the season], which was pretty helpful.
On the last two-and-a-half months
■ The overall experience was excellent. The management and the [senior] players never treated me like a newcomer. They were caring and treated me with such warmth. The support staff, especially Nehra and (mentor) Gary Kirsten, made sure we had a healthy team environment. None of us had difficulties.