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Sayyed Iqbal Abdulla migrated to Mumbai from Azamgarh at the age of 17 because of a dream of making it big in cricket. Though the initial period was a struggle, but four years and as many Indian Premier League seasons later he’s realized it.
A stellar performance in the recently concluded Twenty20 extravaganza saw the 21 year old being named ‘Rising star of IPL4’. Competing with the best in the business, the left arm spinner, a virtual bench warmer for Kolkata Knight Riders in the first three editions, showed his true caliber, picking 16 wickets from 15 matches.
Abdulla was one of the stars of India’s Under 19 World Cup winning team of 2008 his 10 wicket haul playing a major role in the triumph. Thanks to that showing, he was included in the team for the Under 19 ODI tri series in Sri Lanka, where he finished the third highest wicket taker.
In a freewheeling interview with Special Correspondent Manu Shankar, the youngster speaks about his IPL journey and aspirations.
You were one of the stars of IPL 4. Tell us about your journey in the tournament.
To start with, I was very happy that there was no specialist spinner with Kolkata Knight Riders. Thus, I had better chances of playing this season. The last three seasons I got very few matches to play, so this time around I was hungry to perform. Coach Dave Whatmore and skipper Gautam Gambhir gave me confidence at the start, saying I would get to play more games; so I was raring to go!Despite not getting many matches the last three seasons you decided to stay with KKR. Why?
I had a word with the coach before the start of the season and he said that they are not going in for any spinner, which improved my chances of playing. And when [Murali] Kartik was picked by Pune Warriors, I decided to stay back. Though they didn’t commit on me playing in every match, they did say that I would get more games.
How different was this season’s KKR squad from that of previous editions? There were some big names in the team.
All those who came in were matured cricketers, world class players. Players like [Jacques] Kallis, [Brett] Lee, [Gautam] Gambhir, all brought in lot of experience. There was hunger in the team to do well. We never talked about the past or future. We only talked about the present case scenario. I guess, that’s why we did well this season.
Besides the international stars, we also had a wealth of Indian domestic players, like Yusuf Pathan, with whom I used to spend most of my time. I used to bowl to him in the nets and constantly ask for his advice like where to bowl,
the angles etc. He used to try and hit me out of the park and I would try my best to outsmart him.
How was the experience of opening the attack? Was it something you practiced in domestic cricket?
I have opened the bowling in the shorter version quite regularly. I’ve played a lot of T20s for DY Patil, where I shared the new ball with a pacer. Besides, if you have to make your way into the team you have bowl in all situations. It’s about the captain’s confidence.
How do you plan your bowling against a big hitter, someone like MS Dhoni or Kieron Pollard?
Spin doesn’t mean that it’s easy to hit a bowler out of the park. A player gains a reputation only when he bats sensibly. If he goes after your bowling, invariably, you stand a better chance of getting him out. Like Sachin [Tendulkar] Sir; he doesn’t go after all the balls; he punishes the bad ball. Your take on that
Domestic cricket is very important, because that’s the base. I would say domestic cricket is tough, as you have the best of players coming in to compete. Everyone is keen to make a place for themselves. So the level increases as you play the Deodhar Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Boards President’s, India ‘A’ etc. So there is pressure in domestic circuit as well.
All the Indian players playing in the IPL have excelled in the domestic circuit. You get more matches if you keep performing.
The IPL has transformed my life; it brought me into the limelight and helped me financially, too.
The IPL had amazing spinners, like Shane Warne, who played his last season. What did you learn from such spinners?
It’s great to see a legend performing; someone who has lived cricket to the fullest. But I follow Daniel Vettori, as being a left armer you get to learn a lot from him. I watch his videos, talk to him. You can gain a lot from that.
Disappointed not to be in the West Indies?
Not really. Selection matters are not in my hands. All I have to do is keep performing and play more and more matches. In between, I’ve also been working on my batting; I try my best to perform as an all rounder. I don’t get bogged down by these selection issues; my part is to keep doing better and better.
There is a lack of genuine left arm spinners in the country. Besides Pragyan Ojha there aren’t any specialist left armers on the radar. Any particular reason?
There is talent. I keep interacting with [former India spinner] Maninder Singh. He gives me tips during a cricket camp. He specially came for a Ranji match and it felt good that a senior left arm spinner was there to watch you play and offer you tips.
As for your question on lack of left arm spinners, Inshaalla, who kami ab poori ho jaayegi (by God’s grace, that dearth will end soon).