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What is with the Emerald Island? How is it that some of the best spinners in world cricket crop up from the narrow lanes and scenic beauties of Sri Lanka? One often wonders. It is almost how Pakistan is synonymous to fast bowling.
Sri Lanka have always had the reputation of producing quality spinners for over a decade and a half. It goes without saying that Muttiah Muralitharan, is an inspiration for every little kid bowling across Kandy, Colombo or Galle just like 28-year old Sachitra Sennayake.
With over 300 first class wickets, Senanayake is amongst the new crop of young Lankan spinners who is creating quite a flutter with a bag full of tricks, leaving some of the best in the business looking clueless. He is now a part of the ‘mystery spinners’ gang and an important member in the KKR setup.
In yet another exclusive from IPLT20.com, we spoke to the tall Lankan spinner who takes us through his experiences on bowling with his new spin partner, Sunil Narine, his views on his IPL captain Gautam Gambhir, and about his team owner Shah Rukh Khan who welcomed him with open arms to the KKR family. Here is an account of the interview.
How confident were you coming in to play in the IPL?
I have played just 65 first class matches for the Sinhalese Sports Club back home where you get one of the best wickets to bat on in Sri Lanka. I am used to bowling in batting friendly pitches and have been consistently picking up wickets there. Coming into the IPL, I was always confident that I would do well since I had an idea of how the pitches would behave here in India.
Did it take you by surprise that you were bid for heavily at the auctions?
(Smiles)I wasn’t following the auctions that day since I was busy playing domestic cricket in Sri Lanka. My manager called me later in the day and said that I was a part of the auctions and the franchisees were bidding heavily for me. I was very surprised when KKR picked another foreign spinner because they already had Sunil Narine in the side. But I was happy that I was picked by the Knight Riders.
Talking about Narine, how is it to bowl in tandem with yet another mystery spinner?
Narine is someone who doesn’t talk much, but believes in doing his job to near perfection. He is a good guy and he is always in the game. When we practice together, we have a chat with each other and make our set of plans before a game. It is good to bowl with Narine and share some views about our bowling.
Have you both shared any advices and given any bowling tips to each other?
Oh yes. But we both are different bowlers. What we can share with each other are our experiences. For example, he helps me with some tips on how to bowl to West Indian batsmen like Chris Gayle and Keiron Pollard. He tells me where to bowl and what line and lengths to avoid while bowling to them and it is the same when he has to bowl to Sri Lankan players.
Now, it is almost like the opposition is haunted with the mystery in pairs when they are playing KKR!
Yes, I consider myself lucky to be bowling with someone like a Sunil Narine. In the last two games we bowled as pairs and we did a fair job. I personally was not happy with my performance in the two games as I felt I leaked far too many runs. I would want to be more economical with a lot more wickets in the bag.
Do you set your own fields during the match or does Gautam Gambhir have a say in it?
Oh, Gambhir backs me totally and gives me the freedom to set the fields. He has a chat with me and asks me what kind of field I want and sets the field accordingly. He is a tremendous captain, he is someone who will back your abilities to the hilt.
Gambhir and Jacques Kallis are amongst the finest players of spin. Do they give you advice at the nets?
Jacques and Gambhir gauge my bowling in the nets. We have a positive mini battle at the nets were I set the field and both players try to beat the field and score off me. At the end of the session, we discuss our views as to what can be done better and how we can bowl according to a set plan.
Gambhir has shown tremendous confidence in you, does it add pressure on you to perform?
No. It does not add pressure on me. In fact it proves to be a motivator for me when someone trusts my ability to the max. At the moment I know that I have to give my 200 per cent in a game and pick wickets for KKR.
How important are variations in this format of the game?
Variations are very important in T20s. You cannot survive with just one stock delivery; you have to develop three or four variations to keep the batsman guessing. I am working on a new variation, but I would want to keep it in wraps at the moment (Winks).
How many types of deliveries can you bowl in an over?
I can bowl close to four different kinds of balls in an over. I have a regular off-spinner, an arm ball, the carrom ball and one more lethal one that can either go in or go out. You will have to play me for that. (Laughs) Let us just say it keeps the batsmen guessing.
Have you spoken to Ajantha Mendis. What does he have to say about your bowling?
I have got an opportunity to talk to Ajantha Mendis. He taught me how to bowl the carrom ball properly. The way we grip the ball while bowling the carrom ball is different. I cannot bowl the carrom ball like Ajantha, but I have my own way of bowling it. He is someone who has got five or six variations up his sleeve.
What will be your dream wicket this IPL?
I have already got my dream wicket. As a budding cricketer, watching the 2007 World Cup final, I saw how Adam Gilchrist blazed his way to a 149 against us (Sri Lanka). All our quality bowlers were smashed all over the park by him. From that moment I felt Gilchrist was a special player and always dreamt of taking his wicket someday. I got his wicket when we played against the Kings XI Punjab and was very happy that I had got a special player out.
Which batsman do you admire the most?
I like AB De Villiers. AB is a dangerous batsman. The thing about AB is that he is creating shots, shots that you cannot imagine from unexpected quarters. It should be a challenge to bowl to him.
Would you want to bowl to him in a super over?
(Laughs) I told you it will be a challenge and we will see when we have a situation like that.
Who are your best friends from the KKR dressing room?
All the KKR guys are good friends, they are very friendly in the dressing room and we have our share of laughs and fun. (Breaks into laughter)They call me ‘Sachi’ while some of them call me ‘Sena’ because I have a long name which some of the commentators also get wrong. I end up getting weird names at the end of the day.
Has your team owner Shah Rukh Khan spoken to you?
Yes. SRK just came to me and said “Welcome to the family.” These are words that mean a lot because you get a feeling that you belong here.
Have you set a goal for yourself in the IPL?
I love playing for KKR and I just want to take as many wickets as possible for KKR. I want to make sure that whenever I get an opportunity, I pick a lot of wickets so that I am considered for the next match as well.