'Globally, Andre is the finest T20 all-rounder'
Calcutta: To begin on a personal note... Dinesh Karthik is one of the very few current India cricketers who makes it a point to acknowledge messages of congratulations perhaps as soon as he accesses his cellphone after the post-match/day's play commitments.
So, in the ongoing IPL, this Reporter has received either "thanks" or "cheers" at different times after midnight if the matches commenced at 7.00/8.00 pm.
It may seem a small gesture, but the courtesy shown by Karthik actually says much about the kind of person the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain is.
No wonder, then, Karthik is eminently likeable.
On Thursday, the day after KKR's memorable win over the Rajasthan Royals and the day before the Qualifier II face-off against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Karthik spoke to The Telegraph.
It was a day off for the KKR players, but that didn't come in the way of Karthik acceding to a request.
Q Congratulations on moving a big step closer to the final... Thoughts at this point in time?
A Thank you... To be honest, I'm not very keen to talk about Friday's match. What I'll say is that we just need to focus on what we need to do. Both KKR and the Sunrisers are good teams and, so, everybody expects a good contest. It is, after all, Qualifier II.
Q Did you feel all was getting lost when Royals' captain Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson were moving towards the target of 170 with considerable ease?
A Well, the Royals batsmen were rotating the strike and getting the odd boundary, but I sensed a breakthrough could turn the tide for us. Our bowlers, as it turned out, performed admirably and here you're talking to me.
Q Not for the first time, MoM Andre Russell made it really hot for the opposition...
A In my view, globally, Andre is the finest T20 all-rounder. He's a superstar... I don't know what the issue with Cricket West Indies has been, but international cricket has been poorer without Andre. I can't believe there have been times when he has been ignored... Again, in my opinion, Andre is an even better human being than he is a cricketer. He's fun loving, is witty and is such a wonderful guy to have around in the squad.
[Russell's one-year ban for violating the 'whereabouts' clause of Wada ended on January 30. His first appearance for the West Indies since August 2016 will be at Lord's on May 31 during the Hurricane Relief T20 Challenge against the ICC Rest of the World XI.]
Q Shubman Gill has grown as a cricketer in the past six-seven weeks...
A Gill is a good batsman and will do better... Nitish Rana, Shivam Mavi and Prasidh Krishna have also grown in this IPL.
Q Prasidh went unsold at the auction and only came to KKR as a replacement for Kamlesh Nagarkoti. Yet, the 22-year-old from Karnataka has done wonders...
A Clearly, Prasidh is one for the future. He knows exactly what he needs to do.
Q Who suggested that Prasidh be taken as the replacement?
A It was a combination of three people... Abhishek Nayar, my life coach as I describe him, our CEO Venky Mysore and the team analyst (A.R. Srikanth).
Q You said Nayar, who played three ODIs in 2009, is your life coach...
A Abhishek guides me on pretty much everything, but it's largely cricket, of course.
Q Among seniors, Chris Lynn has been playing a different role in this IPL...
A Chris is taking up more responsibility, is playing the spinners better and taking KKR's cause forward. I'd say even Chris has grown as a cricketer during the course of this IPL. He's learnt to absorb pressure, take the hard knocks... A team man for me.
Q Last month, in an interview (published on April 24) to me, you'd emphasised that you "look to inspire" by your "actions, not just words." You've lived up to it entirely - topping the runs and averages for KKR, besides being top-class as a leader...
A It has been my duty to inspire by on-field performances... I've got loads of experience, so it's only natural that I'd be expected to deliver. I don't shy away from challenges and, over the past six-seven weeks, have learnt quite a bit.
Q Specifically, what have you learnt as the full-time captain of an IPL franchise?
A Learnt that I have to be calm in the most demanding of situations, that a clear head is needed at all times... Learnt that I must take the lead in playing the way the KKR culture demands.
Q One more... What has taken KKR to the Qualifier II stage?