Kumar Kartikeya turned out to be one of the finds of the IPL 2022 season for the Mumbai Indians (MI). He has played just four games, but picked up five wickets at an economy rate of just 7.85 and has all but cemented his place as MI's first-choice spinner next season.
MI struggled badly for more than half the tournament as they lost a record eight games on the trot. However, Kumar Kartikeya's debut seemed to be good luck for them as they won four out of their last six games.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Kumar Kartikeya opened up about his emotions when he realized that he had been called up by the five-time IPL champions as a net bowler. He said:"When I got a call from them that I was going to be a support bowler, I was very excited because Mumbai has been my favourite team since the beginning. "I was excited to meet Rohit Bhai and Sachin sir. When I went there I thought I would have a side role as a support bowler, but there they kept me like a family and treated me very well."
Initially, Kumar Kartikeya was just a net bowler. But an injury to Mohammad Arshad Khan meant that the 24-year-old was called up to the main squad as a replacement. On this, he added:"So when I got a call-up to the main squad, Aakash Ambani sir had personally come to meet me. So it was a great feeling and when I got into the team I was lucky that I got to play the very first game. The best feeling was when we won that game in my debut after losing eight on the bounce."
Kumar Kartikeya on Rohit Sharma's influence
MI skipper Rohit Sharma has been an inspiration for many cricketers, particularly those who have played under his captaincy.
A number of talented youngsters that have come through the MI ranks have been vocal about how the 35-year-old has always supported them and ensured they aren't nervous.
Kumar Kartikeya also shared an anecdote on how the MI skipper made him comfortable and that brought the best out of the spinner, picking up figures of 1/19 against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) on his debut. He revealed:"When he (Rohit Sharma) told me in the team meeting that I was going to play, I was a bit nervous and he spotted that. "But then he took me outside the room and personally told me that 'Don't worry at all. I will handle everything. Just bowl the way you do in Ranji Trophy fearlessly. I will always support you whether you go for runs or pick wickets. So don't worry just bowl like you do in the nets. It's not easy to hit you for runs.' "So when your captain backs you this much, you automatically perform well."
Karikeya also spoke about how he wanted to make Rohit's birthday special by making an important contribution to MI's first win of the season. He added:
Kumar Kartikeya has done enough to probably be one of the first names on MI's team sheet next season. He will also reportedly fly to England with other MI uncapped youngsters like Tilak Varma for a three-week camp.
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Edited by Arjun Panchadar