IPL to Ranji, Karn Sharma’s ‘new team’ magic

Every year, the leggie is traded wisely across franchises and wherever he goes, the titles follow.

Karn Sharma: "He (Dhoni) only interferes if the bowler’s plan doesn’t work out."   -  Vivek Bendre

Three years, three teams and a hat-trick of titles — that, perhaps, is the easiest breakdown of Karn Sharma’s recent feats. There is some kind of wizardry that propels the leggie to a new Indian Premier League franchise every year, and wherever he goes, the titles follow. 

He was part of the victorious Sunrisers Hyderabad side in 2016, Mumbai Indians in 2017 and last week, he laid his hands on the trophy wearing the Chennai Super Kings jersey. The 'new team' circumstance is not limited to the IPL alone. Karn also tasted Ranji success in 2017-18 on his debut season with Vidarbha; he moved from Railways last year.

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In a chat with Sportstar, the 30-year-old leg-spinner from Meerut opened up on the importance of remaining a winner even when he is benched, the crucial wicket of Kane Williamson in the IPL final and the significance of individual plans leading to results as a unit. Excerpts...

How has the last one week been? Chennai Super Kings created history by clinching the title on comeback…

It was mad. We are happy that we won it for the fans and support staff. There were criticisms regarding the team combination after the auctions. This was a different feeling compared to the last two times. I haven’t seen such a fan following in any other team in the IPL. You could only see yellow in the stands.

You were benched for many games in between and suddenly, you were picked for the final. Were you prepared?

I got to know in the morning that I was playing the final. IPL is one tournament where you can get a chance any moment, due to injuries to others or change in team combinations. So I was preparing accordingly. I was bowling at the nets everyday and I was up for it.

Do you think your experience in keeping things tight in the final of 2017 (for MI) helped in your selection?

That could be a reason. I know I was doing well and I had to sit out as our plans changed once we moved to Pune. I was selected keeping Chepauk in mind, which assists spinners. But our new home ground was pace-friendly. But I had a feeling I may play the final. When you have already played a final, you have an idea how to go about things and read the scenario better. I didn’t have pressure as I knew how it works.

How much do you believe in intuitions?

A lot, every bowler has to.

I believe that got you the crucial wicket of Kane Williamson in the final...

Yes, I had the intuition that he would step out. Kane always took chances on the first ball of the over, whether it was a spinner or a pacer. We had gone for 30 odd runs in the last two overs and I knew he would charge down. While he stepped out, I got a fraction of a second to pitch the ball wide and get him stumped. If he had been at the crease, SRH could have scored more runs.

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How different was the team culture in CSK compared to MI and SRH? Did you find a difference in their approach?

Every franchise follows different rules and regulations, but playing a final is a big thing irrespective of the team you play for. Having three titles is a huge thing for me. When I was with SRH and MI, both the franchises were in top two leading up to the play-offs. It was the same with CSK this season, so I couldn’t find any major difference. When you are doing well throughout the season, the approach doesn’t really change. But individuals have different plans and if they stick to their plans, the team wins.

How helpful was M.S. Dhoni from behind the stumps?

He gave me the freedom to set my field. He only interferes if the bowler’s plan doesn’t work out. At the end of the day, you need a wicket for the team which is more important.

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Going back to warming the bench, you missed out on the Ranji final but Vidarbha won the title. Were there mixed feelings?

Winning a championship is big. Even if you don’t do well individually and the team wins, you still get the confidence that you are a player of a winning team. That thing motivates me a lot. Even if it is a local tournament, satisfaction from being in a winning team is different in its own way.

What are your plans now?

I will start my preparations for the next domestic season. I believe winning and doing well is the best motivation. But if you have to continue winning, you have to train harder and be at it continuously.