K S Monish spins his way to the top
When curtains for the league stage of this Ranji season were drawn, Kerala cricket team’s fans have something to cheer about. The state team gave a tough fight this time almost entering the knockout stage. Moreover, a Kerala bowler grabbed eyeballs by topping the bowling charts, which is quite a rarity.
Meet Karaparambil Satish Monish, the spin wizard who spearheaded Kerala’s campaign this season. From 16 innings in 8 matches, he claimed 49 wickets conceding just 878 runs in 347.4 overs at an average of 17.91 and economy rate of 2.52.
Though Vidarbha’s A A Wakhare too claimed 49 scalps, he conceded 1242 runs from 459.2 overs.
The highlights of Monish's achievements are two 10-wicket hauls (against Hyderabad and Saurashtra) and also the five-for on five occasions. Of this, his 11-wicket haul against Group C table toppers Saurashtra stands out (6-81 and 5-46) as the feat had lifted Kerala to the second spot before the last round of matches in league phase.
Significantly, Monish is sitting pretty on top of the bowling chart that features big names like Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and Vinay Kumar.
Monish shares with Mathrubhumi his passion for the game, his cricketing journey and his goals...
Q. When the league stage of Ranji season ends, K S Monish is topping the wicket tally at national level. As far as a Kerala bowler is concerned, this is a highly remarkable achievement. How do you feel?
A. I feel extremely happy and lucky as well. At the start of the season I didn’t expect to take these many wickets. I feel lucky as a few players have been able to achieve such a feat for Kerala.
Q. How did you pick cricket as a profession?
A. As a child I loved to play cricket. It was my brother Varun, who saw me playing, felt that I could take it as a profession. I started playing by joining coaching camps when I was around 10 years. Then I got selected for MIG cricket academy in Bandra, Mumbai, where I was groomed by my first coach Satish Samanth. I started as an opening batsman but my coach thought I was a better spinner and could bat well in middle order. Later I played for Maharashtra Under-15 and after few years I started playing ‘A’ division club cricket for Karnataka Sporting Association.
Q. You were born and brought up in Mumbai, where you started your career. In the current scenario, even a junior level cricketer in Mumbai is getting much more media attention. Given the situation, what drove you to Kerala?
A. I moved to Kerala to play higher level of cricket as per the advice of my brother and coach. They thought it would be great learning experience for me and get more chances to exhibit my talent. It has been seven years since I moved to Kerala. Initially, I represented the state in Under-22 and later Under-25 categories before getting selected for the senior team. Media attention and such things never crossed my mind. I feel it is the outcome of playing good quality cricket. My goal will always be to play good quality cricket.
Q. So what are your Kerala connections?
A. My parents _ Satish and Girija _ belong to Thrissur in Kerala. After marriage, they moved to Mumbai as my father worked for Air India. I shifted to Kerala seven years back and I always stay at my mother’s place in Triprayar with my grandmother. She has taken care of me for so many years. My grandmom’s place is quite peaceful and I love to stay here.
Q. How do you become a bowler and eventually a spinner? Who found the bowler in you?
A. At first it was my brother who taught me how to play and it was his idea that I should become an all-rounder. So I became an opener who could bowl. But it was coach Satish Samanth who thought that I can be a better spinner, hence I turned into a left arm spinner who can bat in middle order. My brother motivated me to start bowling and learn spin bowling. Eventually, it was my coach who taught me the basics of the trade.
Q. How it felt when you were selected to a state team?
A. I don’t think I can express how it felt when I played my debut match. Only thing I can say is that the night before the match day, I could literally see all the phases of my career in front of my eyes _from the first camp when I was 10 year old to the days when I worked very hard but never got selected. I knew I had to do my best to make my family and my coach proud. But I wanted to do well for my brother who never gave up on me even in bad times.
Q. Four matches of the current Ranji season were played at the Perintalmanna cricket stadium in Malappuram. So the advantage of playing in home turf will always be there. Apart from that, how well was the track?
A. The pitches we have at home can be good. It depends how well we can bat on it because it always has something for the bowlers.
Q. Your favourite ground and the personal association with it?
A. Perintalmanna cricket stadium is one of my favourite grounds simply because I have always been able to perform well here.
Q. What is your opinion on opting heavily spin-friendly or bowler-oriented tracks for multi-day matches? Do you think there are chances for the plan to backfire like what happened in Kerala’s last match against Himachal?
A. I feel that the pitch should be a sporting one, where the bowler has to bowl quality deliveries to get the batsman out and the batsman should have the quality to play shots and make big scores. Sometimes there are situations when you have to go for the win. Then the team has to take the calculated risk and make a pitch which is bowler-friendly. Of course, the plan can always backfire but it’s the risk you got to take if you need to qualify.
Q. Being a left-arm orthodox, did any bowler influence you in shaping your action?
A. I was very well influenced by the Indian spinner Sunil Joshi. I tried to copy his action and today what my rhythm is because of Sunil Joshi whom I admire a lot. Apart from Sunil Joshi, two bowlers I have always loved watching are Shane Warne and Daniel Vettori.
Q. What is your strategy of approaching a match? Would you chalk out and frame a game plan for each batsman?
A. For every match I always go with an aggressive mindset to take wickets. My plan is to create pressure by bowling consistently. This year I was able to do as I planned and I think that’s what got me the wickets.
Q. Do you experiment with line and length in the same over?
A. I prefer to keep it tight and bowl consistently in one area. If the batsman has a weak point that has to be exploited then I do try to do that. This season, I practised arm ball and top spin at nets and was able to use both effectively in matches.
Q. Two 10-for and five 5-for in 8 matches in this Ranji season. Have you developed any secret weapon?
A. As of now I don’t have any secret weapons but I am working on it and hopefully I can use it in future.
Q. Under coach K Balachandran’s guidance, Kerala almost made it to the knockout stage. A word about the coach?
A. I feel Balachandran sir is one of the best coaches I have seen. He is the kind of person who understands every player and interacts accordingly. He does not emphasize on technique but gives lot of confidence and believes in his players. I have played under him for two years now and I feel he is the kind of coach who can motivate and lead the team to the next level. I believe under Balachandran sir our team will qualify next time.
Q. With the stellar performance this season, it is very likely that your name is discussed at national level? So I believe you are pretty much hopeful about the upcoming IPL season and zonal level competition. What are your perceptions?
A. As a player I am hopeful, but it is not something I am concerned about. I am trying to focus on my game. I have a lot to learn and improve to reach higher levels. If I do get selected to higher level of cricket I will be very happy but till then I will be focused on improving on myself.
Q. The present team is a well-balanced side with seasoned seniors such as Jagadeesh, Rohan and well performing fresh faces like Fabid. How is the chemistry inside dressing room?
A. It is simply fun inside the dressing room. Even though we have seniors like Jaggu bhai, Rohan bhai, Robi bhai, Raifi bhai, they never treat us like juniors. We are one big family where everybody is treated equally and there is lot of love for each other.
Q. How do you perceive Sanju, a youngster with national experience, as captain?
A. Sanju, no doubt, is an exceptional batsman. Apart from that he is a very good captain and an amazing team man. I can say he is the heart of the team. He knows how to motivate the team in bad situations and he is very good at lifting the spirits. He will be a very good captain I feel.
Q. Though Tinu and Sreesanth represented India as seamers still a Kerala spinner couldn’t make the cut. K N Ananthapadmanabhan’s name surfaced on various occasions but he too didn’t make it to the ultimate level. So how do you rate your chances and possibilities?
A. I believe today there are plenty of opportunities for a player. Every domestic match is watched closely. So I feel if there is a player with potential, he will be identified. Hence, I will always try to perform at my best and I am sure if I can perform consistently my hard work won’t go waste.
Q. Any memorable experience that you cherish?
A. One thing that comes to my mind is the incident after the match against Saurashtra (Kerala won the match by 45 runs). The atmosphere in the dressing room was just amazing. Everyone was so happy and emotional. It will always be one of my fondest memories.
Q. This was your second Ranji season and you excelled in your game this time. So what are your plans for next season? Are you hopeful that the current three-group format will be beneficial for the team to make it to the knock-out stage next time?
A. The only aspect I will try to do is work harder on my game and improve myself and become better than what I was this year. I feel we have a good chance of qualifying for the knockout stage. We just have to play good quality cricket.
Q. Other than representing the state, are you currently playing any other leagues?
A. For the last two years, I have been playing the Chennai league for MRF. I feel this is one reason that my bowling has improved and it toughened me mentally as a better cricketer. Coach Senthilnathan and my fellow teammates helped me evolve as a smart cricketer. Players like Sunny Gupta, Venugopal Rao, Vasudev Das, Ghaneshwar Rao and many more have really been very good to me and helped me a lot.