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When Chris Gayle was tearing through the Pune Warriors India bowlers, the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s change room was oozing with nervousness. They were chasing 182 and Gayle was their only hope, or so they thought. When the West Indian dasher got out after a breathtaking 48-ball 81 – which included five consecutive sixes in an over – the tension grew. But AB de Villiers turned on the heat with an entertaining 14-ball cameo of 33 runs. Eventually, Saurabh Tiwary sealed the game with a six.
After the match, the members of the RCB camp, who watched the game from the sidelines, looked as exhausted and thrilled as the men who took field. Cheteshwar Pujara was one of them. Post RCB’s stunning six-wicket win, Pujara spoke to iplt20.com about the atmosphere in the dressing room during this humdinger of a run-chase.
What was the mood like in the dressing room before going into the second innings?
We were quite confident as we have very good players like Chris Gayle and [Tillakaratne] Dilshan upfront. We have Mayank [Agarwal] who is doing pretty well and Virat Kohli also. The atmosphere was good because we were quite positive about the chase. When Chris Gayle hit the five consecutive sixes, what was the reaction in the dugout?
We were all tense when he gets started. We just wanted him to keep going. I think he could have hit six sixes rather than five, but the first ball went for a single. I think he batted superbly. What was the logic behind sending Saurabh Tiwari up the order before AB de Villiers?
I think it was the right and left-hand combination. PWI have right-arm leg-spinners, so it gets easy for a left-handed batsman to score against them. Would you fancy the shots AB de Villiers was hitting – those reverse sweeps?
I would love to, but it’s not easy to hit those shots. The way AB and Saurabh Tiwari scored 20-odd runs off the last over was amazing. We could feel the tension in the dugout and the way they chased down the target was amazing.
How did you bounce back after losing three out of the first four matches? What was said in the dressing room?
We have done this in the past. If you see the last IPL, we lost three out of our first four games and bounced back from there. That gave us the confidence and we knew that we could do it again. The kind of players we have in the side, even 200 was chaseable. And being last year’s runners-up, we knew that we have to qualify for the playoffs. Anything in particular that the captain or the coach told the team that pushed the players to produce such a performance?
I can’t point out anything in particular. But being professional cricketers, we all felt that we had to win this game. We lost many games because we weren’t playing to our potential. There was a different kind of energy in the team and we believed in ourselves to pull this game through.
Batting in the longer format is your strength, and you’ve recently said that you’re working on your attacking game to suit the shorter formats. How has having the likes of Gayle and de Villiers around helped you in that regard?
I have been talking to them. Last season, I got injured and lost my rhythm. After coming back from injury, I first worked on my fielding initially to avoid any further injuries. Regarding my batting, I have been talking to Rahul Dravid, and he believes that if you have a good technique, you can play all formats of the game. In T20 format, you don’t get enough time to get set; you have to be ready from the first ball onwards, so I am working on it. And there is nothing in particular that I remember learning from Chris Gayle or AB, but I would love to be as powerful as Chris.
The blue-eyed boy of the Rajasthan Royals squad, Ajinkya Rahane played yet another sublime innings as the hosts successfully chased down 197 at their fortress. The youngster continues to elicit applause in equal measure from fellow cricketers and spectators as he entertains them with breathtaking strokes. Today, at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, he played the patient partner as his skipper and fellow opener Rahul Dravid scored freely.
After making a valuable 31-ball 44-run contribution, as his team beat Deccan Chargers to top the IPL 2012 table again, the orange cap holder told iplt20.com that the key to his success is calmness. Excerpts from Rahane’s interview:
What are your thoughts on today’s big win?
It was a very good victory. It was a very good team effort today. All the batsmen and everyone contributed. It feels very good when everyone contributes and you win the match. I am very happy with the team’s performance.
In the previous match, you set the opposition a similar target, but today you had to chase a big target; so what was the strategy while chasing?
The toss is not in our hand, but they batted well to put 196 runs on the board. While going out to bat, we had decided that if we could give a good opening start [and] if we lose few wickets early on, then we have batsmen lower down the order who can score runs and get to the target. So the strategy that Rahul [Dravid] bhai and I had was to play positively [go for the runs], but at the same time if we don’t give away wickets, they [the opposition] will be under pressure. Luckily things went our way today. What about the shot off Amit Mishra that cost you your wicket and another fifty and possibly, another big score?
I wasn’t thinking of the fifty. [...] Sometimes shots like that, if you are able to middle them, they go for a six. In T20 you have to maintain the run-rate also, so you have to take a few chances. I took that chance, but today it didn’t work. But that’s okay; we won, so that’s good.
What was the feeling in the dugout in the last four overs as the game headed towards a tight finish?
In the last four overs we knew that Dale Steyn, who is their main bowler, had overs left [and he] would bowl. Playing his overs was important, and the plan was not to give him wickets, but at the same time [Brad] Hodge batted really well and picked runs off him [Steyn], and that brought more pressure on their other bowlers. The way Hodge and Dishant [Yagnik] played in the end was very good. Today Rahul Dravid was scoring at a quicker pace. Did you decide to play the supporting role?
In the beginning he got more strike, and sometimes when you are in a flow, the runs come [smoothly] and sometimes you have to work hard for your runs. Today, I think Rahul bhai was in a good flow while batting. So my plan was if there is a loose ball, I will capitalize on that, but at the same time I would rotate the strike and try to give him more strike. Do you think the Rajasthan Royals were too expensive in the last six overs?
It was a decent bowling effort by our bowlers, according to me. They – JP Duminy and Daniel Christian –batted really well today. They hit the ball really well in the last few overs. Back to being table toppers; what is the plan to maintain the momentum?
Playing consistent cricket is very important. It is a very big tournament and whichever team plays consistently will be able to reach the finals. I am not saying that they will win, but playing consistently is very important. We will try to take something positive from every match that we play, and start from scratch in the next match. We all know that cricket is a funny game, and every day is a new day. You have been performing consistently well and scoring runs at a quick pace without playing risky shots and by being technically sound. What is the key to your success so far?
The calmer you are able to stay when you are out in the middle, the more you can think [while batting]. I think of staying calm and try to play the ball on its merit. I know that if you play cricketing shots, the runs will come. And we have discussed that if you score runs on cricketing shots, then bowlers also start thinking about what length to bowl to you. So would you say that the key to your batting is mental calmness?
RR now has a break for the next few days. What is the plan now?
We have continuously played four games in about six days. We have finished on a winning note, so we will take it all positively. But we play our next game against CSK [Chennai Super Kings], which is a big team, so accordingly we will prepare ourselves mentally for that.