R Sai Kishore on Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya are very similar in how they approach captaincy, said Gujarat Titans’ R. Sai Kishore in his latest interview with R. Ashwin. “Both of them will back their players and won’t react much on the field. They don’t talk much. Both teams emphasise on player security,” IPL winner Sai Kishore explained.

Sai Kishore has been a part of both Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Gujrat Titans (GT) over the last three years. He was a part of GT’s title-winning campaign this year and represented CSK for two years before that, including during their title-winning season of 2021.

Having played under the captaincy of both Dhoni and Pandya, Sai Kishore pointed out the similarities in their style of captaincy. He further discussed how Pandya helped and supported him throughout this year’s IPL. “He didn’t disturb me at all. He gave me full freedom and had total confidence in me. That’s what I liked the most,” Sai Kishore said, while an animated Ashwin listened eagerly.

Being one of the very few players to have played for both CSK and GT, Sai Kishore also pointed out the quintessential difference in the approach adopted by the two franchises. “One massive difference is that in CSK, the atmosphere will be very relaxed even during practice. Stephen Fleming won’t encourage intense training. He would like to keep everything simple. It should be quality,” Kishore said, pointing out the difference, “Ashu Pa (Ashish Nehra) is a bit different when it comes to that. He believed that if you have the quantity, then quality will automatically follow. That was the only difference. Both the teams had a super environment.”

Interestingly, Sai Kishore did not play a single match during his two years at CSK. However, that did not deter a quality player like him to still learn from the experience.

“I knew that I won’t play for two years. Since we had so many experienced spinners in the line-up, I knew that I won’t be the first-choice spinner. So, I thought about how I could get better at my game while I am in that setup,” he said, further adding, “CSK had some really big names of the game like MS Dhoni, and Stephen Fleming. And so many players were amazing leaders for their respective countries as well. So, I learned a lot when I was with CSK. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity.”

Discussing the key takeaways from his time with CSK, Sai Kishore talked about the importance of Stephen Fleming and Dhoni in the team’s setup. “I connected well with Fleming. Because he also hardly speaks just like me. I was able to relate a lot with him and I spoke a lot about captaincy with him. I also spoke with him about how to handle different stages of life,” Kishore said about Fleming.

Discussing the importance of Dhoni in his growth as a cricketer, he said, “Obviously, having a guy like MS Dhoni helps, he knew better about my bowling than me. He knew where and when to use me. What are my strengths in my bowling? Where shall I keep the field? I learned it all. Maybe, that’s why it didn’t look like I was playing my first IPL. Because I was already mentally prepared all the while when I was with CSK.”

Ashwin soon moved away from discussions around the IPL and asked the Tamil Nadu spinner about his journey to becoming a professional cricketer. “I don’t have a cricketing background per se. My father hasn’t played cricket. No one from my family played professional cricket. I started playing cricket accidentally and started very late,” Sai Kishore said.

Further discussing his family, and more importantly, talking about his twin brother, Sai Kishore said, “My twin brother’s name is Sai Prasad. We were always together from when we were young, since we were twins. But he loves cricket. In fact, he likes cricket more than I do. He was the one who was more dedicated to the sport. But accidentally, I started playing cricket. He is in the software line. But his passion still lies in cricket. Maybe, we can see him as an umpire if he takes his umpiring exams since he wants to become an umpire.”

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