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To regularly mingle with one’s role model is a privilege few can afford. Being a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, left-arm spinner KP Appanna is living his dream while sharing the dressing room with veteran left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. The icing on the cake for the youngster is that he also gets guidance from two other legends of spin – Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan. Excerpts from the 23-year-old’s brief interview with iplt20.com:
On whether having a good domestic season before coming into the IPL helped
I just came out of injury. Last year, I was injured, so for one year I was out of cricket. This year, I had a fair [domestic] season [with 28 wickets from eight matches in the Ranji Trophy, and being the team’s leading wicket-taker]. It was a confidence booster for me coming into the IPL, and then, I [also] picked up wickets in IPL. So it was a good confidence booster for me and a platform for me to get into the next level [cricket]. On working alongside three of the best spinners – Kumble, Muralitharan and Vettori
I have no words for them. Having them in the team is in itself a great experience for us. I get to know how to bowl on different kind of wickets because they help me out on how to bowl, what pace to bowl and variations and stuff, and they take a lot of pleasure from it [teaching and sharing] [...] You are going to pick wickets when you are bowling with Muralitharan because they are going to take chances for me, so I can end up getting three four wickets. So yes, it is a good experience for me.
On specific lessons that have helped
They tell you about your run-up and about the pace variation. They don’t change technique much. They just tell you what to do, what they have done in their careers and they just tell us. They just tune us finer, that’s it.
On how different is it for a spinner to play Twenty20 as opposed to the other formats
For spinners, obviously, on a bad day, you go for runs and it is expected. A batsman is going to take chances against you, because they [batsmen] have only 20 overs and have to put the runs on the board. So against the spinners, they are going to take their chances. [...] Bowling would be the same. The only thing is we would change the pace and use of the crease.
On the way IPL has panned out so far
So far it has been good. I hope that it gets better for me. That’s all I hope for.
On what playing in the IPL means to him
For youngsters it is a platform for you to perform because people are watching you; the whole world is watching you. [...] It is a way to get into the Indian team. If you do well here, you never know [you might get an opportunity to play for India]. Like how Rahul Sharma went into the Indian side, you [too] can actually go [get selected to play for India]. You perform here and you can go to the next ladder.
On whether he always wanted to be a left-arm spinner
When I started cricket I didn’t know where I was heading. I just started playing and started to bowl. I used to actually bowl chinaman before, when I was small. Later on, I saw Daniel Vettori and started bowling left-arm spin. This was very long ago, when I was 13.
On sharing the dressing room with Daniel Vettori
It is a great feeling. He is a great bowler. When you look at him, you don’t really know what he does, when it comes to his pace variations. When he is bowling, you don’t really know what he does. It is not easy to predict him as a batsman. I don’t know how he does it. I hope I can be something like that soon. [...] He is definitely helping.
On the must-win match against DD
It is a T20 game. You can’t really plan for a win; you just have to go out there and give your best that you have got. That’s all that you can do. [...]
Manoj Tiwary’s girlfriend had challenged him to hit Lasith Malinga for a six at least once in his life. When the KKR batsman walked out to bat at the Wankhede Stadium against the Mumbai Indians, her words were ringing in his mind. With 27 runs off 35 balls, Tiwary was well set at the crease. He took stance to Malinga. In came a full delivery, pitched on middle and leg; Tiwary shuffled on the leg-side, made room and with the straightest of bat, hoicked the ball over the bowler’s head for a six. Not many batsmen would show that kind of bravado against the yorker-specialist slinger, and that too on a track where other batsmen struggled to stand their ground.
Along with revealing the very interesting story behind that stupendous shot, Tiwary spoke about how KKR’s strategy came off perfectly in the match, the mystery that’s Sunil Narine and the team’s final hurdle – the Pune Warriors India – before they make it to the playoffs. After two losses, how difficult was it for the team to fight back so hard?
We didn’t talk differently, we spoke the same what we did before the games we lost. We were playing very good cricket throughout the tournament. Each and every individual believed in each other’s talent and ability. Even after losing two games, the body language of each individual was outstanding.
What was the thought behind going in with three spinners on a ground that is known to assist pacers?
The toss played a crucial part in turning things in our favour as there was some dampness in the wicket. It would have been very difficult bowling first. It was a blessing in disguise as our spinners bowled brilliantly and stopped the players of Sachin [Tendulkar] and [Herschelle] Gibbs’ calibre from scoring freely.
What was the bowling plan during the powerplay?
The plan was just to slow down the pace as we knew Gibbs would take some time to attack the spinners. First few overs were very crucial for us and we got the start we wanted. The pressure kept building on them and the game turned in our favour.
How difficult was it bat on this track?
Initially, there was a bit of bounce and Kallis got a beauty from RP Singh. We knew that if we could build a partnership, we would make it to 140. We managed to take their wickets and that gave us a chance.
You were the highest scorer by far from either team.
It feels good to have scored some runs and that too at such a crucial stage. This win is special because we haven’t won a game here before. Sunil Narine has been a trump card for your team, hasn’t he?
He has been exceptional for us. It is very difficult to read him. He is a mystery bowler, and I hope he remains till the finals.
What is the most difficult thing about facing him?
It is very difficult to attack him as he bowls off-spin, top spin, leg-cutter and carom balls, and has got yorkers as well. The best way to play him is to go for singles and attack the other bowlers. I faced him first when I got a hundred against West Indies in Chennai. I was fortunate enough to hit him for a six when I was in my 90s.
The straight six that you hit off Malinga was the shot of the day. How did you manage that?
I was very determined to do that. My girlfriend had once told me that I can never hit Malinga for a six. I accepted the challenge and it was playing at the back of my mind since a long time. I am feeling very good about it and I am going to call her and tell her that I can hit sixes to Malinga.
Today’s victory came despite the team’s poor fielding. Is that a concern?
That’s right. Even in the last match, we conceded two boundaries in the last over. We need to pull up our socks and field better to become the best side in the IPL.
The race for the top two spots is really tough. Are you guys up for the challenge?
It is very tight. We would love to be in the top two so that we can get an extra chance to make it to the finals. If we play the same kind of cricket that we have been playing for the most part of the tournament, we can pull it through. Our next match is against PWI and since they’re not in the best of form, we have a psychological edge over them.