Sinlung /
16 February 2021

Teen Spinner from Nagaland on IPL radar

Khrievitso Kense.(Special Arrangement)
Khrievitso Kense

What Kense does know is how to spin the ball past right-hander’s bat, fast. So impressed were some IPL talent scouts that the leg-spinner made the 292-player shortlist from 1194 applicants for the auction in Chennai on February 18.

By Rasesh Mandani

Kra-vi-toe’ it is,” Khrievitso Kense said over a phone call from Chennai. Quarantining in Chennai ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-dayers, the 16-year-old leg-spinner is used to people not getting that ‘h’ and ‘s’ in his first name are silent. And then he is asked about his roots.

Kense comes from Dimapur, Nagaland’s biggest city. His forefathers belonged to Angami Naga ethnic group who were once into cultivation and livestock-rearing. Kense has no idea about the tribe’s past. “I don’t know what my name means,” he said with a sheepish laugh.

What Kense does know is how to spin the ball past right-hander’s bat, fast. So impressed were some IPL talent scouts that the leg-spinner made the 292-player shortlist from 1194 applicants for the auction in Chennai on February 18. Come auction-day, Kense his five siblings, parents, doting grandfather will be hoping for a cricketer from Nagaland to break into Indian Premier League (IPL).

Nagaland coach Kanwaljit Singh has helped Kense catapult from U16 to Nagaland’s T20 side in Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy this year. Singh, a domestic giant (369 first-class wickets), had narrowly missed the India call. Now, it’s his coaching motto that a young talent should be tracked before it’s too late. “I had told our captain Jonathan (Rongsen) to bring any youngster he finds exciting to the trials. The moment I saw Khrievitso, I found his fastish leg-breaks very exciting. We drafted him in the team straightaway,” he said.

Kense lived up to Singh’s faith by picking seven wickets in four matches in the Mushtaq Ali meet. It is Singh’s second opinion the Mumbai Indians’ talent scouts sought before Kense was called for their pre-auction trials. Since then, Rajasthan Royals too have trialled Kense.

Long before Nagaland and the other North-eastern teams were integrated in the domestic calendar in 2018 following reforms in the Indian cricket board, Kense had been bitten by the cricket bug. “When I was seven-years-old, I would play cricket with the tennis ball my friends,” he said. “The first ball I bowled with the leather ball was when I was 12. My leg-spin began to come out well. In Nagaland, football is very popular. I also play football and table tennis, but on TV, I only watch cricket.”

Live television and streaming of IPL have been a major source of attraction for cricket in those pockets of India where it is not the first sport. Kense’s favourite Indian cricketer is Rohit Sharma. Bu in his area of expertise, he idolises Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan. “My action is more simple, not like Rashid Khan,” he said. “But I like his leg-spin, and his attitude.”

Singh said Kense is some way from mastering the googly. “He bowls the fastish leg-breaks, the top spinner, the straighter one. The googly, he needs to work on that one,” he said. “I will work on it with him after the Vijay Hazare. I don’t want to rush him into variations. Right now, he is working on using the crease more.”

Back home, Kense’s family is getting used to their second-youngest child travel the country for cricket. “Chennai, Bangalore, Assam, Himachal…” Kense rattled off his list of cricket expeditions. His father? “He is a carpenter. Now, he only goes to work sometimes,” he said. Mother is a house-keeper, eldest brother, 25, is studying MA, and all other sisters including the youngest are studying.”

Kense’s growing up years were “tough”, but the family was “not poor, but middle-class.” My grandfather is an ex-MLA. He took care of me and all the expenses.”

Kense often dreams of bowling like Rashid in the IPL. “I have not seen him succumbing to pressure. He is “bindaas (relaxed)” kind of a guy. I don’t see a reason why he will falter against any big names,” said Singh. “He is blessed with his trajectory and control. Even when he is hit, he finds a way to comeback. I can say one thing, whichever team picks him, they won’t regret it. It will be a big breakthrough for North-east cricket, if he can make it to IPL.”

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