Nair: ‘Representing my country has always been an honour’

Karnataka batsman Karun Nair will replace Virat Kohli in the one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru from June 14 to June 18.

Karun Nair is currently playing for the Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing IPL.   -  Vivek Bendre

Back in the Indian Test cricket team after more than a year, middle-order batsman Karun Nair says that he is now working to become an all-format player in the future.

The 26-year-old Karnataka right-hander will replace Virat Kohli in the Indian team, which will take on debutant Afghanistan in Bengaluru from June 14-18.

Captain Kohli will play for English county side Surrey during that time to prepare for the England tour, later, in 2018. Nair is currently playing for the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).

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“I am really excited to be wearing those whites again and representing my country has always been an honour and privilege. I am really looking forward to it,” Nair said in a telephonic interview.

“I have worked really hard over the last one and half years. My form in the IPL and the way I have batted, I consider myself an all-format player and it’s just about getting those opportunities and making the most of them,” said Nair, when asked about the common perception that the Karnataka batsman is a Test specialist.

“It’s just that finding a spot in the one-day team is difficult. I need to do better to get those opportunities and I am on the right track. I will do everything I can with the bat to make sure I play all formats,” he said.

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Nair, who scored an unbeaten 303 against England in the fifth Test in Chennai, two years back, will lead the India A side in the four-day matches in the UK. For India A’s One-Day tri-series assignment in the UK, he has not been picked.

“I am really happy to be leading the team. It’s a great opportunity for us, as a team, to be playing in England and learning how to play cricket in England,” said Nair, who played his last Test against Australia in Dharamsala, in 2017, before being dropped to accommodate Rohit Sharma in the playing XI.

“We need to learn to adjust to those conditions. For me, as a captain, we have a talented bunch of youngsters who are really exciting,” he added.

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Nair has had a moderate IPL so far, scoring 246 runs in 11 matches at 24.60. Talking about Kings XI, who is experiencing a downturn after losing four of its previous five games, Nair said that it’s time to get its act together at the business end of the season. Punjab has 12 points from 11 matches.

“It’s almost the business end of the tournament. So, we need to get our act together,” he said. “The matches that we have won, we have completely played as a team. Individual performances have helped like K.L. Rahul has batted exceptionally well in some of the games. Chris (Gayle) has also batted superbly in few games. However, it has been a collective effort overall,” Nair added.

Nair also lavished praise on Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin, saying that he has done exceedingly well in his first year as the captain.

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“It’s been brilliant under Ash. He has done exceedingly well as a captain and to be captaining in the IPL for the first time, he has done exceptionally well,” he said.

“He has always been a smart cricketer. If you look at his bowling, he always has different plans for different batsmen and he can change it anytime during the game. He takes wise and quick decisions, which is definitely needed in T20 cricket. I hope we win more games under his captaincy.”

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