Siddarth Kaul is a Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) man through and through. Even for the interview, he comes in wearing an SRH training kit.
Having been with the franchise for close to seven years, Siddarth Kaul has experienced the full monty - from the highs of winning the IPL to the lows of this season’s tumultuous performances. He is also one of the few SRH players to have done exceedingly well under the captaincy of both Kane Williamson and David Warner.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Siddarth Kaul discusses the contrasting captaincy styles of the two, why SRH failed to fire in IPL 2021 and his targets for whenever the tournament resumes in the future.
On SRH’s difficult first half of IPL 2021
The Sunrisers Hyderabad were touted as one of the favorites to lift the crown before IPL 2021 began. Possessing a balanced squad with pedigree players all around, SRH were expected to make full use of the slow and low tracks in Chennai and get off to a solid start.
But the team struggled to get going, winning just one game out of its first seven in the league. Siddarth Kaul looks back at the tough phase, admitting the team failed to click as a unit.
"The game we won, and the ones we lost this season, were all marginal," Kaul says. "It wasn't like we were losing by 70-80 runs or getting our targets chased down within 10-15 overs. We took the games till the 19th-20th over. Even our Net Run Rate wasn’t in too bad a shape.
"It's all about clicking in one game. It is all about the contributions of the players and whether they click at the same time. In the first phase, we did not click. Sometimes the batsmen did well and the bowlers didn’t click, and vice versa. Sometimes we didn’t click as a team.
"It happens to good teams and okay teams as well. When you get that momentum, you can change everything. Yes, we didn’t perform in the first phase of IPL 2021."
But Siddarth Kaul is not too worried about the past. SRH are one of the most consistent teams in the IPL; the franchise has made it to the playoffs in every season since 2016. And with IPL 2021 likely to resume later this year, Kaul is confident in his side's ability to bounce back and put together a winning run.
What makes him even more bullish is that it has been done before. In IPL 2015, the Mumbai Indians bounced back after losing their first four games; they went on to win nine of their last 10 to lift the trophy.
"I have been associated with his team since 2015," Siddarth Kaul says. "We have been qualifying consistently for the playoffs. We are not a big name and that’s why we don't get the limelight. One year does not change everything. It is all about a phase, and that phase has gone.
"We have to think about the next phase and those eight matches. If we win eight matches, we will qualify again just like Mumbai Indians, who won their last games and won the title. You can’t predict in cricket. I feel we will come back stronger in the second phase of IPL 2021."
Siddarth Kaul opens up on the Warner vs Williamson debate and being dropped for the RR game
With their on-field performances leaving a lot to be desired, SRH rocked the cricketing fraternity by dropping David Warner from the side. The Australian was stripped of the captaincy and Kane Williamson took over the reins with immediate effect.
Siddarth Kaul is probably best equipped to talk about the two players, given that the pacer performed well under both during his time at SRH. He picked up 16 wickets in just 10 games in 2017, as David Warner’s SRH finished fourth. And with Warner banned from IPL 2018, Kaul went one step further, managing 21 wickets that season under Kane Williamson.
Kaul talks about what makes the two overseas players different from each other.
"Kane Williamson is more about understanding what the bowler can do and how he can deliver for me," Kaul explains. "David Warner tries to make you express yourself. Whatever you want to do, he backs you to do it. Kane Williamson asks you to share your plans and then shares his strategy with you. David Warner tells you to go out there and express yourself, and play your natural game."
While SRH’s last game against RR grabbed the limelight because of the captaincy saga, one of the players who was not part of it was Siddarth Kaul himself. But he had produced solid performances in the three games before that, picking up three wickets at an economy of 7.71.
When asked whether he felt hard done by after being dropped for the RR clash, Siddarth Kaul insists he took the decision in his stride.
"Selection is not in my hands," Kaul says. "My performance is more important for me. I have to keep on performing well. If they don’t select me, it is their way of thinking. Maybe they want some other guy to play in that match.
"Sometimes some matchups and statistics influence the selection, depending on the team and batsmen we come up against. I can’t go into their thinking. It is their wish if they don’t pick me.
"When I play, I will give my 100%. I won’t think about whether they picked me for the last match or not. My performance will speak louder than my words."
Siddarth Kaul sets his sights on the future
IPL 2021 was halted midway through, with multiple players across franchises testing positive for COVID-19. SRH was one such team, with wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha contracting the virus.
Looking back at the abrupt end, Siddarth Kaul reiterates that he felt completely secure in the IPL 2021 bubble. He also adds that not much else could have been done to enhance the safety levels at the tournament.
"I feel BCCI were in complete control, the bubbles we were staying in were completely secure," Siddarth Kaul says. "I never felt that our bubble could burst. Unfortunately, some things are out of your control. Humans are puppets and everything is in the hands of God. It happened and we cannot do anything about it."
While Siddarth Kaul has a rational take on the bursting of the IPL 2021 bubble, he also knows he has had a solid run in the tournament. And now that multiple reports suggest IPL 2021 will kick off in September, with the UAE touted as a possible destination, Siddarth Kaul doesn't have any personal targets.
The speedster is, however, crystal clear about SRH’s priorities should the tournament resume.
"Obviously when you are playing and in prime form, your heart wants you to keep going and continue performing," Siddarth Kaul says. "But I am sure in the second phase we will have even stricter protocols, and hopefully, we will come back with a bang as a team, try to qualify and then win the title for the second time.
"I don’t keep any targets. I only plan on performing my best for the team. That’s my biggest target. I was in a good grove in IPL 2021 because I was the highest wicket-taker in the domestic competitions. When those things are clicking for you, you are in a different zone.
"You know about the deliveries you are bowling and that is very important as a bowler. Your rhythm sets the tone for the tournament, and it was going great for me in the tournament."
Siddarth Kaul and his love for death bowling
A quick look at Siddarth Kaul’s social media will tell you how much he enjoys death bowling. "Death overs bowling is what I love most," says one of his recent posts, and that is evident in his on-field play too.
While the death is considered to be one of the most brutal phases to bowl in white-ball cricket, Siddarth Kaul relishes the challenge. And there is an opportunity emerging for bowlers like him.
When Siddarth Kaul is asked whether he considers himself equipped to mirror that role and be the designated death bowler for SRH, the 31-year-old answers in the affirmative. He goes on to share how all his efforts have been directed towards being a death-overs specialist for SRH.
"Obviously! Even during the domestic season, I was preparing myself to be a death bowler," he says. "I was bowling one in the powerplay, one in the middle and then two at the death.
"Ever since I have been with Sunrisers, Tom Moody has given me a clear vision of my role as a death bowler. He told me that SRH have frontline bowlers who can swing the ball like Bhuvi, Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed, while I am much pacier who can divert the ball and use his skill during the death overs."
When the topic moves to what SRH expect from him, Siddarth Kaul claims that being handed clear responsibilities has helped him improve as a bowler. Armed with an arsenal of knuckle-balls, slower ones and back-of-a-length variations, Kaul has excelled under pressure over the years.
The quick is ready to do whatever SRH want from him.
"They described what the team wanted from me. Once they do that, it makes you more confident in your abilities. You get wiser about your variations. It is not like I can’t bowl with the new ball. In domestic cricket, I bowl with the new ball in ODIs. But when the team has a requirement, you become more focused and specifically prepare for that.
"I know the demands of SRH and where I fit into their team. So, whenever I play domestic or India A cricket, I have those roles in mind," Siddarth Kaul concludes.
Personally, the journey has been a rewarding one for the 31-year-old pacer. With 54 IPL scalps, Siddarth Kaul is third on the all-time wicket-takers list for SRH.
The fact he has managed to hold his own in a team that is known for having a formidable pace battery is an achievement in itself.