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On April 12, the Royal Challengers Bangalore dugout was filled with glum and shell-shocked faces. Despite posting 205 runs on the board, they surrendered the match to the Chennai Super Kings in the final over. Five days later, after a similar last-over finish, the scenes had reversed completely. This time, it was RCB who had chased down a mammoth total and stunned the opposition – the Pune Warriors India.
While it was their trump card, Chris Gayle who once again shattered the morale of the opposition bowlers with yet another predatory knock, the vital finishing blows were struck by AB de Villiers. The South African batsman scooped and swept his way to an amazing 14-ball 33 runs and snatched the win from PWI’s grasp. After winning the match for RCB, de Villiers told iplt20.com how proud he was of his team for bouncing back in this manner after three disheartening losses. Not so long ago, you were on the receiving side of such a finish. How does it feel now?
I am amazingly proud of the way the boys played. I can’t put my finger on one, because it was a team effort. Each guy really came to the party tonight. We had the right attitude, and [I am] really proud of the way the boys pulled off [the win] tonight. What about those shots you were playing tonight – the reverse sweeps?
That’s probably the best chance I had to clear the boundary. You got to use your best shot; on some days it’s going to be extra cover drive or slog sweeps. So the reverse shot was coming out pretty well tonight and I used it.
Have you been practicing those shots pretty frequently in the nets?
Not really. I use it quite a bit in the middle, and I think that’s enough practice.
Did Chris Gayle make it easy for you?
He played a great knock tonight. I thought we might have left it for a little bit late, but luckily we pushed it through. He set us a foundation and we pulled it through. What did it take for the team to bounce back like this after losing the first few games?
We had a quite a few meetings. We had heart-to-heart discussions. And it’s all about respect and care in the team. We showed a lot of care tonight. We really had to win this, and you could see that on the field. What was the reason behind playing an extra batsman when the team was struggling with the fifth bowler in the previous games?
I honestly don’t believe in something like a fifth bowler. Who ever goes for most of the runs seems to be the fifth bowler. In every team one such bowler is going to travel for runs, so there is nothing like first or the second bowler. Anyway, we just went through the players we have and felt like we should be able to chase down any target. So we went for an extra batter.
What was your strategy when you came out to bat?
I was hoping that we could just pull it through. I just wanted to contribute to the team, and not looking for the Orange Cap. I was not worried about personal rewards. I just wanted to contribute to the team; [Saurabh] Tiwari and I did exactly that.
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.