Chennai Super Kings (CSK) is a tough IPL side to break into, especially for an overseas spinner. But New Zealand left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner has quickly made his mark in the champion side under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Mitchell Santner was bought by CSK at a bargain price of ₹50 lakhs back in 2018 but missed the entire IPL season back then due to a knee injury. The Kiwi all-rounder finally got an opportunity to show his talent in a handful of games in IPL 2019. And, he didn’t disappoint, performing with both bat and ball.
“The IPL, I guess, is the pinnacle of all T20 tournaments and I was pretty excited when I was picked up (in 2018). There are some world-class spinners in Chennai to talk to and play with – guys like Harbhajan (Singh), who I've watched a lot of, (Ravindra) Jadeja and Imran Tahir as well," Santner said.
“When I got injured the first year (2018), I was pretty disappointed, but I was given the opportunity last time around to go and experience it. It's an unbelievable tournament and definitely the best cricket going around in terms of T20 leagues. It was nice to bowl on different pitches to New Zealand,” Mitchell Santner was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo in an interview.
Mitchell Santner has slipped into the role that former New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori used to play for the Black Caps. He has already played in 22 Tests, 72 ODIs and 44 T20s for the Black Caps.
'Sharing dressing room with MS Dhoni in IPL was awesome'
The 28-year-old said that playing under MS Dhoni and sharing dressing room with the former Indian skipper in the IPL was ‘awesome’.
“I've played against MS (Dhoni) a lot, so to share a dressing room with him and talk to him about how he goes about things was awesome. Even guys like Suresh Raina – you watched him from other teams you go with,” Mitchell Santner said.
After bowling on flat pitches and grounds with short boundaries in New Zealand, Mitchell Santner said it was great to bowl on surfaces with help for the spinners in the IPL, and especially in Chennai.
“Some of the pitches in New Zealand are quite flat and boundaries are quite short, so you have to vary your pace and try to read the batsman quickly. The IPL (last year) was a cool experience as well. It was the first time for me playing at a ground where it spins more, in Chennai, which is nice because you don't have to do too much," Santner elaborated.
“You try and fire it into the wicket and let the wicket do the rest. I guess, for me, it's about trying to adapt to the conditions as early as possible and find what will be the most attacking ball on each surface,” the Hamilton-born all-rounder said.
Apart from his bowling, Mitchell Santner even displayed his ability with the willow in a game against the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL last year. With skipper MS Dhoni walking back to the pavilion in the final over after scoring a 43-ball 58, CSK needed 8 to win off 3 balls when Mitchell Santner walked in.
The Kiwi all-rounder sensationally smashed Ben Stokes for a six off the last ball of the innings to seal a four-wicket win for CSK and help his side continue the momentum in the IPL.
“It might look like I'm calm on the outside, but definitely not on the inside (laughs). Every time I play a game of that kind of quality, I try to keep it simple. That might come across as I'm really relaxed, which is the way I try to go about my business and keep it level.
“On bad days, I try and learn from it rather than getting too down about it. That's the thing with international cricket - you are going to have bad days. As long as you are learning from it, you will get better,” Mitchell Santner recalled about the match-winning six.