After three years spent in IPL obscurity, Iqbal Abdulla is getting used to the attention; interview requests for example.
The 21-year-old looks the part, his gelled hair spiked in the middle though he has just finished practising with the team at Eden Gardens. He’s cautious with his answers, refusing to criticise the earlier team management that gave him four matches in three seasons. The new-look Knight Riders have picked the left-arm spinner in all 11 matches they have played in IPL-4 so far and he has responded with 13 wickets.
But when the interview is over and before he goes and answers a few more questions in front of a television camera, Abdulla betrays his immaturity by asking, “Kab dal rahe ho (When will you file this)?”
Ask him about the wickets that gave him the most joy and Abdulla says he cannot pick one.
Probe him a little, and he is more forthcoming. “Getting the wickets of international players — Gilchrist, Duminy, Hussey — boosts your confidence.” Abdulla forgets to mention the Deccan Chargers skipper Kumar Sangakkara and the Daredevils all-rounder James Hopes.
Quite a few of those wickets have come with the new ball, which Abdulla has been entrusted with in three of the 11 matches.
“It’s something that is decided on a match-by-match basis, depending on the wicket,” says Abdulla.
“I’ve played a lot of T20s for the DY Patil team in Mumbai, which I captain. I have to bowl with the new ball for them as well.”REPAYING THE FAITH
Abdulla is one of only two players — the other being Laxmi Ratan Shukla — who has been part of the Knight Riders from the inaugural IPL. But this is the first time he has the confidence of the team management, comprising captain Gautam Gambhir, coach Dav Whatmore and bowling coach Wasim Akram. "Their backing gives you confidence," says Abdulla.
But what has changed for the team, which is in sight of a place in the last four for the first time in four years? A long pause follows the question before Abdulla laughs uncomfortably. “We had three bad years… in fact you can’t say bad…,” he says and stops.
“In fact, it has been good for me that the wait-and-watch tactic has paid off and I am doing well now,” says the young man.