Dubai: The news of a call-up among the 30 probables for the Champions Trophy could not have been better-timed for Praveen Kumar, the gifted but temperamental pace bowler whom India had sorely missed in recent times. “I am looking to use my performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to make the cut for the final squad,” said lynchpin of King’s XI Punjab attack.
Speaking to Gulf News from India on the eve of their second IPL match against the formidable Chennai Super Kings at home, Kumar said the fact that England is the venue for the limited overs showpiece in June will be an added incentive for him. The English conditions had been conducive to his swing bowling and during India’s disastrous Test series there in 2011, Kumar was one of the few bowlers to have impressed after senior partner Zaheer Khan got injured in the first Test and Ishant Sharma looked out of sorts.
“Yes, I have always enjoyed bowling in English conditions though I don’t know what the weather will be like in June. There is also a difference between the movement of the red ball in Tests and the white ones [which will be used in the 50-over Champions Trophy], but it’s a challenge that I am looking forward to,” said Kumar.
The Adam Gilchrist-led King’s XI, whose best performance in the IPL had been a semi-final berth in the first edition in 2008, have started with a thumping win against a lacklusture Pune Warriors, but Kumar says it’s too early in the tournament to talk up their chances.
“It’s such a long tournament that there are going to be ups and downs. Last year, we were almost there in the play-offs with a sequence of good wins but lost the chance because of one poor game.
“This time, we have had a good preparation under new coach Darren Lehmann and the team is like a family. Hopefully, we can make our mark,” said Kumar, who has 27 wickets from only six Tests and 77 scalps from 68 One Day Internationals.
Kumar, who is also a handy lower order batsman, wants to spend more time at the nets for it can be a real add-on quality in any form of the game.
“Yes, I have been working at it under the guidance of Lehmann, Gilchrist and our new assistant coach W.V.Raman. I have also done reasonably well with the bat in domestic tournaments like Mushtaq Ali tournament as well as Deodhar Trophy — those few extra runs lower down the order are always useful,” he said.
The last couple of months had been a stormy one for Kumar, who was recently let off with a strong warning by the Indian board for his verbal outbursts against a rival player in the Corporate Trophy.
Not willing to rake up the controversy, he wants to bury the past and carry on. “I am working hard on my fitness and the game. Right now, my agenda is to play a key role in Kings’ XI progress in the tournament.”
King’s XI Punjab vs Chennai Super Kings
Mohali, 6.30 pm.
Live telecast on CricOne