WV Raman Interview: Gautam Gambhir is great, but Shreyas Iyer has done a grand job for KKR

W.V Raman (Image: BCCI)

Subhayan Chakraborty in Chennai

It’s that time of the year when the final of Indian Premier League (IPL) takes precedence in the world of cricket. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), two-time IPL champions, will take on SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH), winners in 2016, in the summit clash at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. After the teams finished first and second in the league stage, they locked horns in Qualifier 1, where the Kolkata franchise emerged victorious. Come the final on Sunday, the slate will be wiped clean as both KKR and SRH set their focus firmly on the glittering IPL trophy. 

Ahead of the grand finale, WV Raman, former India international and KKR’s batting coach in the victorious 2014 campaign, in an exclusive interview with RevSportz, talked about a range of subjects – from captaincy of Shreyas Iyer and Pat Cummins, Gautam Gambhir’s influence on KKR back in 2014 and now in 2024, Sunil Narine’s cracking form, and much more. 


The top two teams in the IPL, playing in the final. How would you set up this KKR vs SRH finale?

WV Raman: Two top teams facing each other. Kolkata Knight Riders have shown their all-round game and SunRisers Hyderabad have redefined T20 batting. These two teams thoroughly deserve to be here, and all the success. They have set up a battle of a kind that everyone will love. 

What similarities do you find from that 2014 KKR side and the 2024 KKR unit?

Raman: The core was strong at that point in time. It is very similar in the sense that KKR are making optimum use of the resources available back then and now. Sunil Narine opening is another similarity. His pyrotechnics are not only entertaining but also a major threat as far as the batting is concerned. When he is done is where KKR’s batting starts. They have a few big hitters in the middle order. In 2014, a lot was spoken about Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy, which was really good. He is one of the best captains the IPL has seen so far, and again, let’s not forget the fact that Shreyas Iyer as captain has done a grand job. In a bid to find similarities, we tend to overlook the fact that Shreyas has been brilliant. He deserves the credit. This season is something he will look back with great pride and sense of achievement. 

Shreyas was brilliant as a leader for Delhi Capitals and now is doing the same with KKR. Do you think he is underrated as a captain?

Raman: Whatever happens, it is the captain who deserves the credit, and the team. As somebody who’s been a part of the coaching setup in different sides and different levels, I think the ultimate credit should always go to the captain and the team. Of course, the support staff is always there to try and help them. When the team does right things on the field, it is mostly because of the captain. Shreyas is also gradually learning the art of not wearing his heart on his sleeve. By that, I mean, he is getting calmer and getting more mature and in control of his emotions. He is being bold, and he’s also had the benefit of somebody as experienced as Andre Russell and Sunil Narine in his side.

What about Pat Cummins as the captain of SRH?

Raman: As far as Pat Cummins is concerned, he is making things look very easy, isn’t he? For Australia, the WTC, ODI World Cup, Ashes – he has done it all in the last year or so. For SRH, he has done a terrific job. He has given everybody a lot of confidence and he’s got the best out of the players. He has been a great motivator for the Indian players by the looks of it, especially the bowling group. Even in the Qualifier 2, we saw how he read the situation and improvised as far as making tactical changes is concerned.

The moment they realised that the pitch is more suited for the slower bowlers, he made Abhishek Sharma bowl, which I thought was very clever. Abhishek has been one of the promising all-rounders from the junior level onwards. For various reasons, he has not been bowling much, but still, he must have been practicing in the nets. It proved to be a massive masterstroke against the Royals. He has delivered trophies for Australia so he must have taken the responsibility and said, ‘let’s try and do it for SunRisers’.


Along with Abhishek, Shahbaz Ahmed also bowled a terrific spell. Since you were Bengal’s batting consultant for a long time, what has changed in Shahbaz over the years?

Raman: What has gotten better in the case of Shahbaz Ahmed is his confidence and his belief that he can deliver at the top level. Also, now, he has perhaps got a feeling, from what I see, that he belongs here. In front of so many big stars, he may perhaps be thinking ‘No, I’m probably a little bit lesser than some of the others in the team there.’ Now, he seems to be thinking that he’s as good as anybody, and he is as important as anybody in the side that he’s playing for. 

What about Sunil Narine? He is on his way to pick up his third MVP trophy in IPL, the most for any player…

Raman: Sunil Narine keeps everybody guessing, you know, because there’s hardly any expression on his face. He doesn’t emote much. He’s also got the craft and the skill sets and the variations as a bowler to keep everybody guessing. Not only that, even with his demeanour on the field, there is nothing much that people can pick up from the way he goes on in the field. The way he takes everything calmly with the same equanimity, which is very, very rare. And there are not many cues that the others can pick up as far as batting is concerned. 

In one of the recent chats that I had as a broadcaster during one of the KKR games, I did ask KS Bharath about Narine’s preparation as a batter. He indulges in a lot of range hitting and plans meticulously about what he’s going to do in matches and that’s exactly what he replicates. Whatever he does in the nets, whatever he does in the training sessions is what he replicates in the matches and that’s why he succeeds.

He has found methods that will help him succeed. As long as he is capable of hitting the ball well, and as long as he can, I think the bowlers will have nightmares. As far as bowling is concerned, batters are still trying to figure out how to play him, because he’s been phenomenal. There’ll be no debate on the fact that he has arguably been the most valuable player in the IPL. 

A lot of talk around Gautam Gambhir’s tactical astuteness and him being the favourite for the India head coach role? What is your take?

Raman: I’ve always rated Gautam Gambhir as one of the best captains in the IPL. Not only when I saw him operate as a captain for KKR in 2014, or prior to that, he’s always been intense. He’s always been tactically good. The fact of the matter is that he has devoted enough time as a part of the leadership group in franchises. The success is something that comes to him purely because of his own efforts. Whatever happens in the future, who knows how things will pan out or what is likely to happen.

He is someone who is really intense and who is really committed to cricket. He doesn’t really make a genuine effort in trying to behave the way others want him to. He is his own man which is not a fault at all, which is really a good quality to have. I’ve known him personally, and if he goes on to take up this [India] role, I would like to wish him all the very best.