Kyle Mills, the former New Zealand bowler and current bowling coach of KKR, has joined the squad after completing his quarantine in Abu Dhabi, UAE. On his first day at the job, Mills was seen working closely with Omkar Salvi, the assistant bowling coach, and Abhishek Nayar, KKR’s assistant coach, to set a plan for the season for the team’s bowling unit.
We caught up with the Kiwi veteran soon after his maiden session at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Excerpts:
Welcome to the Knight Riders family, Kyle. We’ve been waiting for you for some time now, how is it to finally join the squad?
Mills: It feels great on a couple of things. I am out of quarantine. So, it’s good to be out of my room and to be finally engaged with the team. Obviously, I have watched a lot of (KKR) matches on Youtube in the last couple of years and also in the lead-up to the auction. But it’s great to get down on the ground and have those one-on-one chats. It’s my first day, so I’m really still building those relationships with the boys. We still have about 3 weeks before we get into it (IPL). So, that’s nice.
You’ve been in touch with the boys over Whatsapp and Video calls though during the lockdown...
Mills: Technology is great. You can have those Whatsapp chats and what not. But there is nothing like being on the ground, having face-to-face conversations. You can talk to the bowler. Like for example, today Sandeep (Warrier) and (Shivam) Mavi were talking between balls on what we are working on, what we are trying to achieve. That’s my philosophy - to not only bowling, but teaching and learning cricket as well. We have got a young group at KKR this year, which is very exciting.
The IPL was originally scheduled to take place in India, but with the scene shifting to UAE in different conditions, do you have different plans for the boys?
Mills: I guess all the teams are now on that same boat. We originally built our team around playing half the games at Eden Gardens, and the other half in venues around India. We considered all those combinations and conditions. For our local, young boys, they have played a lot in India obviously, but haven’t played so much here in the UAE. So, that’s another challenge in itself. Playing in Sharjah is very different to playing here in Abu Dhabi or in Dubai. So, getting the guys up to speed with those conditions and what type of deliveries and scenarios we are going to face is a part of my job. It’s exciting because these youngsters don’t have too many scars. They haven’t had too many lows. Young lads keep bringing in fresh approaches to any environment. So, it’s exciting to be coming into this group for the first time, surrounded by some young local boys and some heavy overseas guys as well like Pat Cummins, Lockie Ferguson, Sunny (Sunil Narine), and Andre (Russell). So, there is a lot of talent there.
In the off-season, Abhishek Nayar and Omkar Salvi worked very closely with the local guys. How much does that knowledge within the setup help you, coming into the season?
Mills: Omi (Omkar Salvi) has been huge for me. We’ve been in constant communication and dialogue over the past 8 months, firstly leading up to the original IPL, but obviously once the goalpost changed, having to come to the UAE. The boys had been in lockdown and didn’t play any cricket. These are whole different dynamics we are experiencing. So, we have to get the guys up to speed. Some young guys had injuries in the past. These young lads are eager and keen, so I need to tell them to calm down. It's just the first week on the ground. We need to build them up to their first game. Match techniques will come into play from the next week onwards. Omi has been fantastic because he has been on the ground in India and I have been in New Zealand. Abhishek has been great as well. He has great knowledge of the game and local players in India. He is a vastly experienced First Class cricketer. These two have been instrumental for me to get up to speed with the local boys.
KKR Fans have not only been very excited about this 2020 squad we’ve put together, but also about our star-studded coaching staff...
Mills: I had a few banters with Stephen Fleming, the coach of Chennai Super Kings. I told him Kolkata has some rookie coaches, what have we got to lose! Out of the coaches, for two of them, it’s like a home-coming. I think David Hussey and Brendon McCullum have been Kolkata boys from Day 1 of the IPL (in 2008). So, it’s great to have a fresh start with those two boys. They have a different role now – from players to now being in their coaching elements. They are coming home. I think that, along with the fresh approach, brings a lot of excitement to the fans of KKR. Then we have Chris Donaldson. We are all coming in together for something that’s fresh and new. Abhishek Nayar is a very new coach as well and also making his way is Omi. So, we are not grumpy old coaches. We are young and keen in our roles and most importantly, we all get along as well.