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Sandeep Warrier Interview: Shah Rukh Khan Was Adamant That Someone Should Be With Us Till We Left

Kolkata Knight Riders pacer Sandeep Warrier was among the players to be affected by COVID-19 inside the IPL 2021 bubble before the tournament was suspended. Although the pacer did not feature in the XI for KKR this season, he has been taking upward steps in his career over the last few years. With 186 wickets from 57 first-class matches, Warrier has been a regular for India A, and last year shifted teams from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. He was also a net bowler for the Indian team in the home series against England earlier this year.

In this interview, Warrier talks about coping with COVID-19, his career, and how lack of domestic cricket is affecting his chances for higher levels.

Excerpts:

How has the recovery been? How are you feeling now?

I’ve been training for the past week. I am feeling a lot better now. The advantage was that, even in the first test where I came positive (for COVID-19), my reading was very low. In the first RT-PCR test itself, my reading was around 25. By the second test itself, it came to 31. In the subsequent tests, it came negative. The  COVID effect was not very high, but I feel the post-covid has affected me quite a bit. I have been training for the last one week, and that alone is taking a toll on me.

Before COVID when I was with the KKR team, training was not difficult. I guess it will take a week or so more to be back on track. During COVID, I didn’t have many symptoms. After that, after I started training, breathing was a bit difficult. I was getting tired easily, I’m still recovering from a training perspective.

How did it all start?

I have no idea how it started. On May 2, we had an RT-PCR test. That morning itself, I was not feeling well. So I quarantined myself after informing KKR. That test came negative for me, I guess it came positive for Varun Chakravarthy. He was quarantined on another floor. Since I was negative I thought it will be just a normal viral fever.

But since Varun came positive, we took another test, and I turned positive. By then, I had realised it was COVID because my wife (Aarthi) is a doctor. She told me you have covid, and the next test result will be positive for sure. She had covid six-seven months back. She had the same symptoms. She saw me on a video call and knew it was covid.

I informed that to the team doctor. The next test was positive, and they took me to the non-bubble floor.

Was there any panic?

No, because I was expecting it. My whole family had COVID six-seven months back. That time I didn’t get it. During the IPL in Dubai, I was safe. And then during the Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy…somewhere it has to happen because we’re traveling a lot. Whatever safety precautions we take, I knew I was going to get it down the line.

I didn’t expect to get it inside the bubble. But since we have been traveling a lot since the domestic season itself, I was expecting it to get to me. I was not panicking because I knew I was going to come back strong.

Was it an advantage to have a wife who is a doctor?

The main advantage was that since she also had covid, and her hospital is also a covid center, so she had communication with so many covid patients. She was well equipped with all information. She was in regular contact with the KKR doctor also. It helped me a lot. She was the one who told me I am having covid for sure, you have to accept it and recover. So before my results came, I was ready for it. She was in Ahmedabad at that time, she had joined the bubble and was quarantining. She was taking care of me.

How did KKR help you through this process?

Our team doctor, Shrikant, and our manager (Wayne Bentley) and Raju (logistics) were staying back for me and Varun. They left only after we came negative. So we were fine.

After we tested positive, we had to isolate the whole team. The next day, IPL was called off. We had a virtual meeting in which everyone was asking about me and Varun. Shah Rukh sir also spoke to everyone saying you all will be taken back home safely and that there is nothing to worry about. For me and Varun, he was very adamant that there should be someone with us for the whole one week or 10 days after the tournament ended. Venky (Mysore, CEO) sir also stayed back for three days.

Now about your career. You recently shifted teams from Kerala to Tamil Nadu. How has the transition been?

It feels very smooth because I have been playing league cricket in Chennai for the last eight years. I’ve played with almost all the cricketers here, so I know them all. Since I am training with MRF for the past 10 years, I know all the fast bowlers from TN. Most batsmen come to MRF to bat. So I have a very good relationship with almost everyone.

It is like my home team only. Even in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, Dinesh (Karthik) anna was also saying that; for the first time, someone who has come from outside had gelled so well that nobody feels I am from outside. It feels like you’ve been here for so long.

Has the COVID period been frustrating? You’re 30, the prime age for a fast bowler, and pushing for national selection. Now there is no Ranji Trophy and no A tours.

Last year I was really frustrated. I can’t sit at home. I am someone who has to be out always. The advantage was that since Aarthi is studying, she will leave home around 7-7.30 am. I also leave with her in the morning. I will finish my training and return only in the evening, and she will also return only around 6.30-7 pm. I’ll be in the ground throughout. I have my morning sessions, have breakfast with the groundsmen, then do mobility/stretching sessions. Around 1-1.30, I have lunch and then practice skills from 2 pm to 6 pm. That was my routine.

I have to be out. The last lockdown was very frustrating. More than cricket, just being at home was very frustrating. I was a part of all India A tours before that, and suddenly we didn’t know any cricket was going to happen. But during those times I motivated myself to work hard on my fitness, so I set up a gym at home even before the first lockdown was announced.

I was into training, but to be at home without cricket and not knowing what was going to come up, was frustrating. It’s the same situation now. Since I’m recovering from COVID, it’s fine, I also don’t want to go out much now. But the last few days I was getting a little restless so I thought I’ll go to Kerala for a few days.

Without proper domestic cricket or India A tours, how will you push for national selection?

To be honest, that thought has come into mind for sure. No Ranji Trophy for the last one and a half years, and I don’t think there will be any Ranji this year as well. No red-ball cricket, no India A tours… I don’t know how to push for national selection.

But the only thing that has been on my mind is to work on my fitness and skill. The next chance that I have to wait for is either domestic cricket if that happens, or the next phase of IPL if that happens, and if I get a chance. I can only prepare for that. If I get a chance there and I perform, I can go to the next step. But I can’t plan for anything ahead now. Obviously playing for India is my dream.

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