IPL 2018: A slice of Karnataka in Kings XI Punjab

Karnataka batsman Karun Nair believes having K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal — who scored 2,141 runs this domestic season — will make the Punjab franchise a batting powerhouse.

Karun Nair is happy with his form this season.   -  Vivek Bendre

Twenty years down the line, ‘relate Mayank Agarwal, K.L. Rahul, Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin and Kings XI Punjab’ could easily be a quiz question. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is known for creating pairings like Virat Kohli-AB de Villiers and Sunil Narine-Gautam Gambhir but an alliance, involving top domestic cricketers, is rare.

In the forthcoming IPL, the Karnataka stars, along with the Tamil Nadu senior pro, is likely to form the core of Kings XI Punjab.

The 26-year-old Nair — who scored six hundreds and 1,270 runs across formats this domestic season — will also be gunning for an international return through the premier T20 tournament. His career stopped at six Tests, which also included a triple-ton (303 not out) against England at home. In a chat with Sportstar, he tells how the mutual understanding of the trio can turn the tide for Kings XI under the leadership of Ashwin.

Excerpts

How much does Mayank and Rahul in the same IPL team mean to you?

Three of us started our cricket together in the U-19 age-group. Since we have been together for so long, we know each other’s game well. It is a great thing for the Kings XI batting group. If we get a chance to play together, there will be a sense of understanding in the middle and hopefully, we can help the team win the IPL.

And playing for a team which is yet to win the title always adds to the hunger…

It should. Every year, every team sets out to win the trophy. We have a well-rounded team with experience and youth. If all of us play to our potential, we stand a good chance.

What do you think Ashwin can bring as skipper?

I have known Ashwin for the last two or three years, whenever I have been a part of the Indian team. He is a smart thinker and he thinks a great lot about the game. Ashwin has his own ways of doing things and he is really smart about his moves. If you see his bowling, he has all kinds of plans set up for each and every batsman. If one doesn’t work, he goes for the other.

How much has your batting gained from the IPL?

For any youngster in India, playing the IPL is an advantage. If you are a batsman, you get to face international bowlers at nets and if you are lucky to get a game, you will face more of them. The standard is almost the international level. It is great that the Indian youngsters get to spend time with the legends of the game. Once you do well in the IPL, your confidence goes higher when you go back to your domestic team.

You are the second batsman after Virender Sehwag to score a triple ton in Test cricket but you didn’t get a call-up after six Tests…

Everyone wants to play for the country and the only way is to do well in the domestic circuit. You don’t need anybody to come and motivate you, performance is the only way back to the Indian team. I went back and scored in all formats, I got six hundreds, including two T20 hundreds, I think I had a good season. Of course, I could have done better, but I am happy how the season went.

Who do you think have been the smart buys for Kings XI this season?

Andrew Tye (bought for Rs 7.20 crore) is a good pick. He had done well for Gujarat Lions. You also need a trusted bowler at death to check runs and pick wickets. The addition of Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh adds power to it. Gayle has been a legend in the IPL. Any opposition will be wary of hitters like Gayle and Yuvraj.