Over the years, it has become a well-established fact that the Australians exemplify candour and straightforwardness both on and off the cricket field and don’t hesitate to call a spade a spade. Christopher Austin Lynn is no different in this regard. The 26 year old right handed middle order batsman from Queensland became an overnight hero for the Kolkata Knight Riders when he produced a stunning effort on the fringes of the boundary line to dismiss RCB’s talisman and one of the hardest hitters of the cricket ball AB de Villiersin Bangalore in the 2014 edition of the Indian Premier League. Had he stood a few inches back, the world of cricket could have been deprived to witness a staggering piece of fielding and the birth of a new T20 celebrity. However he was ruled out of the tournament the following year owing to a hamstring injury which made him miss the eighth edition of the lucrative tournament. Back into the thick of things for KKR this season, Lynn has played just two games so farin one of whichhe nabbed a spectacular catch in the outfield to dismiss Mumbai Indians’ Jos Buttler in Mumbai; reminiscent of his athletic effort at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium 2 years ago.
A passionate football fan, the Brisbane Heat skipper was adjudged the ‘Player of the Tournament’ in the Big Bash League earlier this year where he amassed 378runsat a lethal strike rate of 173.4 (studded with 23 fours and 27 sixes). His 101 off 51 balls against Hobart Hurricanes was clearly one of the greatest highlights of the competition down under. The string of impressive performances of late has reinforced his reputation as a T20 specialist who plays franchise based T20 cricket throughout the year, representing various conspicuous teams such as Brisbane Heat (BBL), Kolkata Knight Riders (IPL) and Guyana Amazon Warriors (CPL). He doesn’t lack runs at the First Class level either as is evident from his tally of over 2300 runs in four day cricket. The saturation point in the Australian line-up requires batsmen to score runs day in day out in a bid to break into the national side. Cricfit correspondent Ritam Basu took the opportunity to catch up with the Kolkata Knight Riders star at the Pan Asian Restaurant on the premises of ITC Sonar Bangla, Kolkata a few days ago. Dressed in casuals, the interviewee exchanged customary greetings with our representative and got down to discuss his three year stint with KKR, his dream of earning a baggy green, the secret behind his enviable athleticism, challenges confronted in the subcontinent, his brainchild; The Chris Lynn academy and KKR’s chances of clinching their third IPL title. A prosaic speaker, he responded to the criticisms against him in an unruffled tone and went on to sing a few lines of his favourite song in our famous rapid fire round.
Q: We believe you have composed a new song which has been doing the rounds in the KKR dressing room- ‘’Put your hand on your chest….’’.
Lynn: I have only sung it twice. It was a major hit in Queensland as well but I have modified it a bit. It goes like this- ‘’Put your hand on your chest and sing/ Playing for KKR is everything….’’ (Lets out a hearty laugh).
Q: You have played just 2 games for KKR this season. Are you confident about your batting form?
Lynn: Yeah, I am always confident about my batting form. If you have doubts in yourself, you are never going to succeed. I have been training hard and am ready for whatever opportunity that comes my way.
Q: Let’s talk about your First Class career. You have a decent record which boasts of 2340 First Class runs at an average of 45.88. Do you think you can earn a baggy green soon?
Lynn: Look, there are plenty of good players in Australia and if I receive my baggy green, I think it will be a special occasion. At the end of the day I am enjoying my cricket, playing for Queensland, Brisbane Heat, Kolkata Knight Riders and Guyana Amazon Warriors. So, whatever happens, happens.
Q: Is representing Australia in Tests your ultimate goal?
Lynn: I wouldn’t say it’s my ultimate goal. I am happy with what I am doing at the moment- playing T20 cricket around the world and representing Australia in T20Is. Yes, there are certain targets and ambitions but I am fine with whatever I am doing right now.
Q: You played alongside Kumar Sangakkara for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League. Recently in an interview he said that you have the ability to shine in all three formats for Australia. He even compared you to David Warner in that regard. What are your reactions to this?
Lynn: I look up to Sanga. I spent three years with in the Hyderabad franchises (The erstwhile Deccan Chargers and Sunrisers Hyderabad). To get a mention from someone of that calibre is a good feeling and I would like to prove him right one day. I believe I am good enough and like I said, if the opportunity comes it would be great; if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world because there are six or seven guys who are performing well for Australia. Hence, whatever will be will be.
Q: Who has been your cricketing role model since your childhood?
Lynn: I reckon they are Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis. I look upon them as my idols. Their stats are good for a reason and the way they train and conduct themselves is praiseworthy. They are good people and that is the reason why they have achieved so much in their individual careers.
Q: With KKR boasting of such a high profile support staff, how has Chris Lynn benefited from it over the course of his 3-year stint with KKR?
Lynn: I keep everything pretty simple. I think the benefit of having those people around has come in handy. I reckon Jacques’ (Kallis) style of play is very similar to the Aussies and he thereby understands the nature of my game. I would say the same about Katich. Then having someone like a Mark Boucher on board brings a lot of positive energy into the change room. He has introduced new training drills since joining the team last week and someone joining the team halfway through the tournament helps on that front.
Q: You were adjudged the ‘Man of the Tournament’ in BBL 2016. What had been your approach throughout the tournament?
Lynn: Just like I perform in any other competition. I didn’t prepare any differently. I was relaxed and was captaining the team for the first time, so there was a little bit more added pressure. I wanted to lead the boys from the front on the field and with not so much talk off the field. I think I did that quite well. There’s no reason to change anything when you are performing well.
Q: How is the IPL different from the BBL? People say that if IPL is the English Premier League, BBL is akin to La Liga.
Lynn: Look, the two tournaments are completely different since they are played in contrasting conditions. Both competitions involve some gruelling contests. That’s what the fans want and it is great to see pacers clocking the 145 km/hr mark and hitting the deck hard. Spinners come into play in the sub-continent which adds a sort of variety to the game. So both these tournaments are big powerhouses and I can see both tournaments introducing fresh faces in every new season.
Q: Which has been more challenging between the two tournaments?
Lynn: As I said before, there’s a lot more pressure on me in the BBL. Being a captain, I try to fulfil the mounting expectations of the fans. In IPL also, you’ve got to perform and there’s a certain kind of pressure over here as well; maybe not as much as the BBL since it’s a different environment here in India. I want to perform well in the IPL because one can make a really good career out of it.
Q: Chris, tell us something about your fielding. You have become a household name in India ever since nabbing that spectacular catch on the boundary line against RCB in 2014 and this year you produced a similar effort against Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium. It surely wasn’t a fluke. How do you manage to pull off such blinders?
Lynn: Haha. Fielding is an attitude. So if you have an energetic attitude on the field, good things will happen. Also you spend 70% of your time on the field while playing cricket so one should get familiar to it in the training sessions. If you don’t like to field, you probably shouldn’t play the game. It can get longer in four-day cricket. In T20 cricket if everybody can stop one run, then it helps a team concede 10 runs less on the field. It does make a lot of difference mate. So many teams have won games by narrow margins solely because of their fielding in the past.
Q: Since our website is also related to fitness, I would like to ask you, what keeps Chris Lynn fit?
Lynn: I like to go to the gym. Also hitting the ball out of the park is one of my strengths so I like to be strong and feel good about my body. I also like to do short and sharp running drills in the practice sessions because in cricket, it’s all about explosive running. When we are fielding we need to be at least 50 metres away from the wicket to prevent the batsmen from stealing 2 runs. 50 metres is the limit. It’s all down to speed and power in the limited-overs format. If you are a bowler, you need to have good body strength or else you will become prone to injuries.
Q: We have learnt that you wanted to set up goal posts in your backyard in your childhood, being an ardent football fan. Kindly talk us through that.
Lynn: Haha, I wanted goal posts but our family backyard wasn’t big enough. So my dad got a cricket net built on the side of our house but I and my brothers always fought as kids instead of playing in the nets (Laughs). There was a pool in our backyard as well so I would always be outside. I was very active in my childhood compared to the kids nowadays who stick to their PlayStations and iPads.
Q: So which team do you think would win the UEFA Champions League this time around? Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid?
Lynn: Real I suppose.
Q: You have a cricket academy. Tell us something about that.
Lynn: It’s an online academy and what I have basically done is I have uploaded a heap of videos so that people can subscribe for those. Once a month we have a web hour where I jump on Skype and people jump in from far away, asking their questions which are answered by me.
Q: The Aussies have been flourishing quite well in Tests and ODIs but haven’t been able to assert the same kind of dominance in T20Is. Where do you think lies the hindrance?
Lynn: I don’t think we play enough of T20 cricket. Generally when the Big Bash is on, Test matches also take place concurrently. The Big Bash is also a good competition and several of the world’s top players participate in the tournament. So barring the Big Bash, the only time the guys get to play T20s in succession is when they come to India to play in the IPL.
Q:Australia’s World T20 campaign wasn’t a satisfactory one. Was there some kind of a rift between Steve Smith and Aaron Finch, who had been the Australian T20I captain prior to the competition?
Lynn: Look, I think they are fine. Smitty(Steve Smith) has captained the side in the two other forms of the game before so it might have made sense to appoint just one captain for Australia in all three formats.
Q: OK. Steve Waugh recently said in an interview that he is fine as long as the Aussies keep performing well in Test cricket, even if they don’t do as well in the shorter formats. Your thoughts on this..
Lynn: Ah, I don’t know what to say but I think T20 is ‘The Game’. Women and families watch it, so it is surely the number 1 format at the moment. It might sound a bit ‘out of the box’ but this is the reality. T20 cricket offers entertainment and that is what people come to see.
Q: In one your BBL matches against Melbourne Stars this year, you hit Ben Hilfenhaus for 5 sixes in an over. Kindly elucidate your blitzkrieg.
Lynn: It was the last game of the year and the weather was quite chilly. I just looked to smack every ball so I played his first ball and decided to take him on. I clobbered a six off his next ball and went bang-bang in the next four deliveries before the opposition could realize it (Guffaws)!
Q: You have suffered several injuries in the past. You reckon those recurring injuries have eaten up a substantial part of Chris Lynn’s career to date?
Lynn: Both yes and no. I have met a lot of people over the course of my injury layoff, doing functions and working throughout that period. Obviously as far as cricket is concerned, it was a tough phase but it has helped me grow and mature as a person off the field.
Q: Not too long ago Kevin Pietersen opined that you haven’t yet become adept at facing quality spin bowling. What are your views on his opinion?
Lynn: Ah, KP! I have massive respect for him as a batsman and he’s such a fine player. Everybody is entitled to their personal opinions. I think he is honest. Frankly speaking, I have to work on my batting against spin, there’s no tinge of doubt in it. I am working hard and I want to accept the challenge and conquer it.That’s why I am preparing for it in the nets every day.
Q: So Chris, the rapid fire segment is up next. Are you ready?
Q: So, what’s your nickname?
Q: Your favourite cuisine.
Q: Your favourite holiday destination.
Lynn: Australia has been good. I really enjoyed travelling Spain.
Q: Your favourite stadium.
Lynn: The Gabba.
Q: I will tell you some roles and you will have to assign them to your KKR teammates. The biggest prankster.
Lynn: Morne Morkel.
Q: The ‘craziest’ guy.
Lynn: (Looks at the media manager Radhika and responds), I want to say Hoggy (Brad Hogg) but I don’t want to give him any credit. We have a guy called Mike Horn. I think he is the one.
Q: The ‘laziest’ guy.
Lynn: Wasim Akram (Bursts into a fit of laughter). No, no. He is not the laziest. It would be Sunil Narine.
Q: The ‘fittest’ guy. Is it Chris Lynn?
Lynn: No, I don’t think I am the fittest. Brad Hogg. For a person who is 45 years old, he is very, very fit.
Q: The most serious guy.
Lynn: Gautam Gambhir.
Q: The best cook.
Lynn: There’s a chef in our change room in ITC Sonar. I think he is the best. Among our teammates, I am not quite sure (Radhika props up Simon Katich’s name), so is Simon a cook? Need to ask him to cook something (Grins).
Q: Your favourite buddies in the KKR dressing room.
Lynn: I like all my teammates. My closest mates would be Sheldon Jackson, Manan Sharma, Manish Pandey and all the overseas players. I get along with everyone.
Q: Any interaction with Shah Rukh Khan?
Lynn: Yeah, yeah. He comes to the change room and wants to turn on the music. He is a very jolly character.
Q: Any of SRK’s film songs that you have learnt or heard?
Lynn: Not his songs but the team’s anthem- ‘Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo re’.
Q: Your favourite song.
Lynn: (Sings)‘’For all the times that you rained on my parade’’. Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yoursef’.
Q: You love playing for KKR because….
Lynn: I love playing for KKR because there is such a good bunch of guys in this team. So if life is good off the field, it translates to your on-field performances.
Q: Your favourite movie.
Lynn: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.
Q: Favourite actor.
Lynn: Will Ferrell.
Q: Favourite actress.
Lynn: It’s a good one. Margot Robbie perhaps. She is hot.
Q: Your hobbies.
Lynn: Surfing, playing golf and hanging out with my girl.
Q: Best compliment you have ever received in your cricketing career?
Lynn: I don’t remember any compliment as such but every time I shake hands with Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, it feels special.
Q: If not a cricketer, then what?
Lynn: A Rugby League player perhaps.
Q: Message to KKR fans.
Lynn: Regardless of the result, keep backing us because we are trying our best to bring the title back to the Eden Gardens. No matter whether we win or lose, we love representing Kolkata and we are trying our best to put smiles on the faces of the people of Kolkata.
Q: The final question. Where does Chris Lynn see himself in 5 years from now?
Lynn: Five years from now I will be 31 so I might have a kid, I can get married by then and hopefully I will still be playing for KKR. If GG (Gautam Gambhir) retires by then, I might perhaps captain KKR (Giggles). No, that’s a distant dream. But I hope I will still be playing for KKR at that time..