Mumbai: Dhawal Kulkarni has endured a quiet start so far to his 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign after marking a comeback return with Rajasthan Royals (RR).
One of the very few players to have featured in all the ten editions, Kulkarni has also played for the Mumbai Indians (MI) and Gujarat Lions (GL) over the years. But donning the renowned royal blue jersey brings back fond memories for the Mumbai seamer.
A successful season with the inaugural champions in 2014 saw him secure a comeback to the national team. And despite failing to catch the eye of the selectors in the last few years, Kulkarni will hope for a similar return of fortunes as he spearheads the Royals bowling attack.
The 29-year-old caught up with Deccan Chronicle and spoke about various topics. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Rajasthan Royals exercised their Right-to-Match (RTM) card to retain you. How does it feel to return back?
It’s a great feeling to be back in the camp. From the RTM card, it felt like the management and coaches wanted me to play for the team. They showed faith in me and it gave me a lot of confidence. I also got a comeback into the Indian team after my performances for Rajasthan Royals. So it is an emotional attachment and playing for such a wonderful franchise has been great for me. I have enjoyed playing here and have always expressed myself well. This is another opportunity which I have got and I would like to make great use of it.
Shane Warne led Rajasthan Royals to glory in 2008. Personally, how big is it having a figure like him as team mentor?
He’s one of the greatest bowlers world cricket has seen. The confidence, the impact he has on the team is huge. The way he talks, the way he shares his experience. It is my first time I’m interacting with him and I am looking to learn as much I can. People have known him for his aggression and the way he outsmarted the batsmen. I would like to pick up his brain, learn about his routine, his bowling approach and more.
You have played a lot with Ajinkya Rahane in the past and the two of you share a good rapport. Thoughts about playing under him once again this season?
I’ve played under him for the Mumbai U-19 team in Cooch Behar Trophy and also for Mumbai Ranji team. We gel well together, have done a lot of tours together. And it will be great playing under Ajinkya. He is a great role model for the country and a great leader. Having known him for the past 10 years, we have developed a good chemistry. He knows where I want to bowl and what I want so it becomes easier for me to coordinate on and off the field with him.
What do you have to say about his journey? Starting from domestic cricket to becoming India’s Test vice-captain and establishing himself as one of the most reliable batsmen for overseas tours.
Ajinkya has grown a lot and has become a mature batsman. Domestic cricket has helped him and especially the delay in which he got his Test cap. Those couple of years have helped him develop into a tough batsman, a tough character which he has shown. Altogether, he has become a different personality. The way he captained India to victory against Australia in the 2017 Dharamsala Test was phenomenal. He just got that opportunity and made the best use of it. There are a lot of positives about him.
You will be leading the bowling attack alongside Jaydev Unadkat and Ben Stokes. How excited are you about the bowling partnership?
The quicker you adapt, it becomes easier for the team and I play in a team which is known for unity. So that gives me great confidence. So sharing the ball with anybody is a great feeling and I’m sure even the other guys would relish bowling in partnerships.
But everything will be revolving around team plans rather than individual ones. However, bowling with Unadkat and Stokes will be a great experience and I’m looking forward to it. I have played with Unadkat but not so much with Ben, but I’m getting to know him better.
You have played in the IPL since the inaugural edition. Do you think the league has become more competitive now moreover due to the success of bowlers in the Twenty20 format?
It has become an equal game now. Bowlers can win you games. Before batsmen used to but now bowlers come into play with the variations. Even batsmen have a lot of variations to attack bowlers. They can play shots all over the ground. As a bowler, you need to be one step ahead of the batsmen. You can’t just be bowling one delivery and let the batsman read you. You have to come up with plans and keep them guessing.