Keeping up with their tradition of springing surprises in IPL auctions, the Kolkata Knight Riders had pouched Sachithra Senanayake for a whopping $625,000 this year.
The 28-year-old, who has played just 10 ODIs for Sri Lanka, has been billed as the next big thing after Sunil Narine. The Caribbean spinner arrived on Tuesday morning and didn't train, maintaining his image of a mystery bowler for most, except, of course, the KKR think tank.
Not for nothing does an IPL team spend so much money on a relatively new player. Trevor Bayliss had specially requested for Senanayake during the auction,
having seen him from close at this year's Big Bash League as the Sydney Sixers' coach.
Bayliss, interestingly, had hired Senanayake to replace Narine, who had to leave for national duty in January. Senanayake's stint was brief — only two matches — but he made enough impression on Bayliss for the Australian to push for him in the IPL.
Another factor could be that it is difficult to change the nature of the Eden pitch despite the BCCI having emphasised on sporting tracks. Most of the other venues also have pitches where the ball keeps low and slow. Narine thrived in such conditions last year. Senanayake too has that unpredictability factor. Tall and lanky, the off-spinner has lot of variation and uses the crease really well. He has recently been given a central contract by the Sri Lanka board and on Sunday played a crucial role in the lone Twenty20 against Bangladesh, which Sri Lanka won. Twelve runs in his last two overs at the death and a wicket give an indication of Senanayake’s repertoire.
Narine still remains KKR’s most important bowler and Gambhir emphasised on strategy and getting the timing right when it came to making him bowl. Possibly, the only time KKR had erred was when they had held Narine back in their first match against Delhi Daredevils last year. KKR had lost that low-scoring thriller. Only after that did KKR start taking Narine seriously, but it wasn’t till their fourth match that he took his first IPL wicket.
Senanayake arrived on Tuesday on a high from the T20 win over Bangladesh. And KKR could be in for a feast if they serve up this Lankan fresh and hot against the Daredevils.