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“Indian Premier League – Where talent meets opportunity.” Nitin Saini, the Kings XI Punjab wicketkeeper-batsman, knows the significance of these words. Drafted into the playing XI to replace the injured Adam Gilchrist, Saini failed to convert starts a couple of times. But the faith and the freedom afforded by the team management has finally paid off. Saini scored his first IPL fifty against the crack bowling attack of RCB to enable his team chase down a tricky 159.
The 23-year-old from Rohtak was beaming after his team’s four-wicket win as he said, “The mood has been just amazing. I cannot put it in words”. For his own performance, he credited his childhood hero and the mentor of KXIP, Adam Gilchrist in a chat with iplt20.com. You’ve got many opportunities in this season. Are you happy to finally make it count?
Finally, I got some runs today. Initially, I got off to a good start in a couple of games, but missed on to the opportunities. Luckily, I got it today. You can’t ask for a better mentor than Adam Gilchrest being a wicketkeeper-batsman yourself. How has he been helping you?
He is my favourite wicketkeeper-batsman. He has just been asking me to wait for my opportunities and telling me that things will fall in place for me. He just asked me to play my natural game and backed me completely, and I got the result. You’re now giving him a tough competition to make it to the playing XI.
That’s not true. It’s very difficult to fill in his shoes. I am just trying to make my own place. He is irreplaceable, and we all know it. Chasing a tricky target against a quality bowling attack like RCB, how did you pace your innings?
I have played a lot of games in this ground, so I know that everything is chaseable here if you play positively. It’s a very good wicket to bat on and we knew that we can chase this target down if we bat to our potential. Our top order got some runs and we managed to pull it through. We did collapse a bit in the later overs; but that’s just cricket.
Were you all biting your nails in the dugout when there was a flurry of run-outs?
Cricket is a crazy game and you never know from which situation you can go where. I was a bit scared; but that’s just cricket. You and Mandeep Singh have been performing well this season. What is it that brings the best out of you?
It’s freedom as well as the motivation we get. We are replacing such good players that we can’t even think of replacing them if they are fit. It’s just a good opportunity to prove ourselves that in case we get a chance, we are there to play. It’s a good challenge for young players like us.
You have beaten top teams in their own backyard. How is the mood in the camp?
The mood has been just amazing. I cannot put it in words. This is the best season that KXIP is having. I hope we can carry on the way we are doing it.
Don’t you think there is still a long way to go after seeing the points table?
The table has been very balanced this year. You never know which team will make it through to the playoffs. It’s very tricky as well, so you can’t take any game lightly; and its good for the IPL.
It doesn’t happen very often that Chris Gayle plays one of his trademark blistering knocks and his team ends up on the losing side. But the intent and spirit of theKings XI Punjab unit won over the pyrotechnics of the Caribbean dasher.
Not one to frown over defeats, the Royal Challengers Bangalore opener was cool as ever even after his 42-ball 71 runs went in vain. Graciously, he also doffed his hat to the KXIP bowlers for keeping him quiet in the first six overs.
Excerpts from his exclusive chat with iplt20.com after the match:
You almost took the game away from them, after they were cruising at one point.
We almost won it in the last over. We did pretty well to take the game to the last over when they were chasing 160 on a batting track. I think, we fell about 20 runs short. I and Virat set up a 100 [odd] runs partnership and [I] got out in the 16th over; that really put us back. It was a decent game, and now we have to win all the matches to see ourselves through to the semis. And sometimes, in such a situation, we can be a bit more dangerous.
Talk us through that 111-meter-long six. Have you ever hit the ball higher than that?
I can’t recall it at this point of time, but I think I am lucky to have hit the ball that far. Like I said, it’s a good wicket and once you start hitting the ball, it’s easy to hit boundaries. I am disappointed to lose the game again, but we have to move on as quickly as possible. The situation is very crunch if you look at the points table. Everyone is beating everyone. What do you have to say about that?
I think this has been the most exciting IPL. Everyone has beaten everyone. Only DD has managed to win most of their games. It’s been fantastic for the IPL. We have to play hard and win rest of our games and see us through the semis, and then try to get a shot to [win] the trophy.
Do you think bowling is falling a bit short as compared to the batting?
Sometimes, it’s our batting, which lets us off, and sometimes, it’s our bowling. It’s a T20 game where both our batting and bowling has to come off well. In this format, batsmen come hard on the bowlers, but we still have to dig deep though. It’s tough.
Middle and lower order is a bit of concern.
Sometimes, our top order has collapsed as well. AB [de Villiers] has been getting runs for us in the middle, but didn’t get what he wanted today. We got to take our chances in the first six overs, so there is nothing wrong in losing a wicket or two. We got to try and consolidate, and do well.