What does this IPL triumph mean to you, coming against your former team?
It's a special victory as I waited to play in an IPL final for seven editions. When I was playing for Kings XI Punjab (2008-13), we never made it to the final. I am happy to have played a final, that too against KXIP. I'm happy for them as well. This victory means a lot to me. We know this is the most happening tournament around the world right now. Winning the final of that sort of a tournament is an amazing feeling.
What has this IPL win taught you?
I noticed one thing. When I was playing for KXIP, I used to be the only spinner, so I knew I'd get to play all the matches. Sometimes, I used to take it lightly, to be very honest. Now with KKR, with Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan – we all know that Shakib can bat as well – I had to put in that extra effort. Out of the 16 matches KKR played, I played in 11. The team went with just two fast bowlers and believed in me by playing with three spinners. This is something big that I learnt this IPL. At the end of the day, it is about believing in yourself. I used to believe in myself but this IPL I learnt it much more.
Where is your career heading now?
I have not given it a thought. I had a very good domestic season followed by a really good IPL. Though I did not play in all the KKR games, I played 11 out of 16 games, I still managed to get 14 wickets, the second highest for KKR and also far below in the most wickets among all teams. I used to the maximum the opportunities I got, especially in the first qualifier and the final. Overall as a player, I'm satisfied with my performance this year. I can't really say where my career is going as that is not in my hands. As a player, my confidence has gone really up.
Currently there are quite a few leg-spinners in the scene. How are you finding the competition and what are you doing to face it?
When there is a lot of competition, it brings the best out of you as a player. You put in a lot of hard work to match with your competitors. This exactly happened to me this IPL. Among the leg-spinners, Karn Sharma (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Yuzvendra Chahal (Royal Challengers Bangalore) have also done very well. I have not played all the games while these two have played in all their team's 14 matches and I have done well (14 wickets to Sharma's 15 and Chahal's 12). That brings the best out of you as a players. I am not saying I am the best but if you look at the stats, you know how I have bowled.
You are only 25 but seem to be a veteran. Do you see yourself playing for India in the coming season?
I have played everything very early and have done decent enough. Still there is time for me. People say that leg-spinners mature late. That is a different story but I am personally concentrating on my performance. The time you start thinking about selection, you start putting extra pressure on yourself. I was only focussing on my cricket and that really helped me get back into the frame and do well.
You have tasted success so early. Could you have handled it better?
I handled it. Something was missing as a bowler. I can't say what 'that missing thing' was. But now I feel there is nothing missing. The confidence, the heart that a leg-spinner needs to bowl with, everything is there. I just need that one opportunity to go and perform with a bang.
What really was 'that missing thing'?
I don't really know what was missing. Perhaps that spark or whatever. Maybe that heart to bowl that a leg-spinner needs. All have synchronised well and working now for me.
People say that you need a big heart to be a leg-spinner. What exactly is that 'big heart'?
Sometimes, as a leg spinner, you are bound to go for many runs. In the longer format, you bowl 20 overs in a day and end up without a wicket and go for 85-90 runs. That's when you should know how to take it. Sometimes in one-dayers, you go for 75-80 runs without a wicket in 10 overs. On other days, things go your way, you bowl 10 overs and finish with 5/45. For that, you have to believe in yourself and have the heart to take the blows. You have to comeback strongly as a leg-spinner. That will show your character.
You have played with Anil Kumble. Do you still go to him for tips?
Whenever I get time, I catch up with Anilbhai. He has always been a great inspiration for me. The way he worked, the discipline with which he played cricket, these are somethings you look up to him. I have learnt from Anilbhai and Shane Warne about having a strong will to come back from tough situations. If you look at Shane Warne, the way he went for runs, he still came back and attacked the batsmen and that was really good to see.