CHENNAI: SAI Kishore is a happy captain. After five matches, Tamil Nadu are on top of the Ranji table. For the first time since 2015, they have had three consecutive victories, and the left-arm spinner himself has accounted for 27 wickets in eight innings, including a fifer. However, more than the results, it is the way the team has played and come together that has made the 27-year-old happy.
"When results come, it's a good feeling. It gives you confidence that your process is right. More than the win, I am emphasising on the way we play and it has been fantastic so far," he tells this daily.
Having been handed the captaincy in the middle of last season, this year was going to be a litmus test. He, however, sees it as a puzzle. He believes that cricket is a captain's game and the person is responsible even for the smallest of things. To manage the additional responsibilities and his own game has been a learning experience so far.
What has helped him in that process is the way the players have stepped into their roles — whether it's N Jagadeesan, Pradosh Ranjan Paul and Baba Indrajith with the bat or Sandeep Warrier or Ajith Ram with the ball. "There is nothing to say that I did this, all the players are showing up, support staff. The car is running smooth, you can't point out it is because of the engine or the driver or anything. Everything is going hand in glove. It is all about working hard, being honest, authentic and hope the results go your way.
"I don't want to take credit for anything, we take decisions for the team and ultimately it is those players who are showing, Jaggi scoring those many number of runs directly put us in the driving seat. So it is all Jaggi's effort. Pradosh, Lokesh (S Lokeshwar) batted beautifully, all you are trying to do is find a good puzzle, assist them in every way possible, put them in a place where they can excel. After that it is just playing as a team. I really feel if we play to our potential, gameplan, the perfect game we are talking about, I think we will be an unbeatable team during the tournament."
Ask him what is the most important thing as a captain, he says it is all about being a good human and a friend. "If you are not a good human, people are not going to trust you. I think it is about being a good friend, teammate, even though you are captain, after that things become easy, because they trust you. I think that is the most important thing. I won't say I am a finished product. Still trying to learn about my own game for the captaincy, handling different situations. I am also growing, my instincts are getting better."
One of the things he is happy about is how much captaincy has helped him understand his own bowling. Apart from the first innings against Gujarat in the opening game, Sai Kishore has taken at least three wickets in every innings so far. He is not satisfied though. He says that he aims for ten wickets every time he walks on the field. Being a captain meant that he is always switched on, understand what is needed for the surface and act accordingly. While he is still learning to rotate bowlers, what has helped him and his bowlers is that he has been in their shoes. "The bowlers actually enjoy playing under bowling captain. I have empathy for other bowlers because I have also been there. The problem could be the usage of the bowlers, where it comes with experience. I take guidance from all the seniors, outside people, coach, and if my instinct clicks, I also do that. In that way, people have been very supportive," he says.
"Grateful" is a word that keeps coming back through the conversation about various things — whether it is the selectors, India call-up where he made his debut at the Asian Games, Tamil Nadu captaincy or just playing for the state. While playing for India will always remain the dream, and the experience was "extremely fulfilling", Sai Kishore has consciously made it a point to be content at what he is doing and celebrate every day of his life. As someone who has come up the ranks the hard way, he understands what he does for a living is a luxury that many dream of. "I think in a country where 15 million people are playing, it is very hard to get in for any one. So, my philosophy is simple. If there is a need, people are going to call you. Till then you have to do your work, keep improving. I am pushing my boundaries and trying to improve every day. Very grateful for everything god has given me in life. To have a career in cricket, passion as a career which came together. I think it is a luxury.
"As cricketers we get distracted a lot, ambitions, and all those things where you forget to enjoy. Every Ranji game I play, I still get goosebumps when I wear that white jersey for TN. It was a dream once to play in Ranji. Every day is a blessing. Not everyone gets to do that. When you are always looking for the stars, sometimes you forget the moon. Yes, I want to play for India. It is a dream, but I also want to enjoy where I am. Only then you can celebrate your life, I want to keep celebrating my life."