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Manoj Tiwary’s girlfriend had challenged him to hit Lasith Malinga for a six at least once in his life. When the KKR batsman walked out to bat at the Wankhede Stadium against the Mumbai Indians, her words were ringing in his mind. With 27 runs off 35 balls, Tiwary was well set at the crease. He took stance to Malinga. In came a full delivery, pitched on middle and leg; Tiwary shuffled on the leg-side, made room and with the straightest of bat, hoicked the ball over the bowler’s head for a six. Not many batsmen would show that kind of bravado against the yorker-specialist slinger, and that too on a track where other batsmen struggled to stand their ground.
Along with revealing the very interesting story behind that stupendous shot, Tiwary spoke about how KKR’s strategy came off perfectly in the match, the mystery that’s Sunil Narine and the team’s final hurdle – the Pune Warriors India – before they make it to the playoffs. After two losses, how difficult was it for the team to fight back so hard?
We didn’t talk differently, we spoke the same what we did before the games we lost. We were playing very good cricket throughout the tournament. Each and every individual believed in each other’s talent and ability. Even after losing two games, the body language of each individual was outstanding.
What was the thought behind going in with three spinners on a ground that is known to assist pacers?
The toss played a crucial part in turning things in our favour as there was some dampness in the wicket. It would have been very difficult bowling first. It was a blessing in disguise as our spinners bowled brilliantly and stopped the players of Sachin [Tendulkar] and [Herschelle] Gibbs’ calibre from scoring freely.
What was the bowling plan during the powerplay?
The plan was just to slow down the pace as we knew Gibbs would take some time to attack the spinners. First few overs were very crucial for us and we got the start we wanted. The pressure kept building on them and the game turned in our favour.
How difficult was it bat on this track?
Initially, there was a bit of bounce and Kallis got a beauty from RP Singh. We knew that if we could build a partnership, we would make it to 140. We managed to take their wickets and that gave us a chance.
You were the highest scorer by far from either team.
It feels good to have scored some runs and that too at such a crucial stage. This win is special because we haven’t won a game here before. Sunil Narine has been a trump card for your team, hasn’t he?
He has been exceptional for us. It is very difficult to read him. He is a mystery bowler, and I hope he remains till the finals.
What is the most difficult thing about facing him?
It is very difficult to attack him as he bowls off-spin, top spin, leg-cutter and carom balls, and has got yorkers as well. The best way to play him is to go for singles and attack the other bowlers. I faced him first when I got a hundred against West Indies in Chennai. I was fortunate enough to hit him for a six when I was in my 90s.
The straight six that you hit off Malinga was the shot of the day. How did you manage that?
I was very determined to do that. My girlfriend had once told me that I can never hit Malinga for a six. I accepted the challenge and it was playing at the back of my mind since a long time. I am feeling very good about it and I am going to call her and tell her that I can hit sixes to Malinga.
Today’s victory came despite the team’s poor fielding. Is that a concern?
That’s right. Even in the last match, we conceded two boundaries in the last over. We need to pull up our socks and field better to become the best side in the IPL.
The race for the top two spots is really tough. Are you guys up for the challenge?
It is very tight. We would love to be in the top two so that we can get an extra chance to make it to the finals. If we play the same kind of cricket that we have been playing for the most part of the tournament, we can pull it through. Our next match is against PWI and since they’re not in the best of form, we have a psychological edge over them.
RP Singhwent over the wicket, angled the ball across the right-handed batsman on a good length and took the bail off the off-stump. The batsman was Jacques Kallis and he had to walk back into the hut for a duck. The fact that Kallis, the batsman with watertight technique, was left clueless, says all about the brilliance and the precision of the delivery.
That was a part of the drama that unfolded during RP Singh’s spell of 4-0-33-2. There was also a dropped catch at the boundary – the culprit being Sachin Tendulkar. Then, there was a wicket off a no-ball and even an lbw decision that seemed dodgy, but went in RP Singh’s favour.
The left-arm pacer was dejected after MI’s disappointing loss. But he put on a smile nonetheless, and spoke to iplt20.com about his own performance and that of his team. Despite the loss, RP was confident all is not lost for MI, who can still make the playoffs with a big win in their final league game against the Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. What was your reading of the track?
The wicket was good and we bowled pretty well, but couldn’t do it with our batting. We still have a game left and we are placed third on the table. How’s your bowling rhythm?
It has been good. I wasn’t a part of the team’s combination earlier, so I worked hard in the nets and worked on my fitness and made it to the team. I am improving and getting my rhythm back. The delivery you bowled to get rid of Kallis was a ripper. Your thoughts.
For a left-arm bowler, the ball I bowled is the best. We always try and hit the off stump, and it paid off for me today.
You can’t say much when Sachin drops a catch on your bowling, can you?
It can happen with anyone. I anyway, don’t react much on the ground. You took a wicket off a no-ball. Tough luck.
We can’t do much about our luck. All we can do is bowl our best and that is what we are doing.
Where did you think the ball off which Brendon McCullum got out was hitting?
My head is always pointed down in the follow-through, and I thought it was hitting the stumps. I appealed and got him out. You’re done with all your home games. Now, there’s the last away match coming up against RR.
We have lost a lot of matches at home and have done pretty well away. We plan to win every match and sometimes it works out and sometimes it does not.