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With the kind of firepower the Chennai Super Kingsboast of, Wriddhiman Saha had to wait for eight matches before he got a game in IPL 2013. And when he did, he was asked to do what he had never done before in the IPL – open the batting.
Saha grabbed the opportunity and made it count. Against defending champions, Kolkata Knight Riders, Saha came up with a 23-ball 39 cameo and more importantly stitched a match-winning 103-run opening stand with the ever so consistent ‘Mr Cricket’, Michael Hussey (95).
At the end of the match, Saha, in a chat with iplt20.com spoke about his mental preparation ahead of his first game of the season and the contribution of his Bengal team-mate Mohammad Shami– who opened the bowling for KKR in the game – in easing him into the innings.
This was your first game this IPL season. How was it to finally feel the pressure of a tight match and not watch it from the sidelines?
In IPL games can change in an over or two. You need to be consistent and the intensity has to be very high. This season I have watched CSK play out many close games from the dugout. To be on the field this time was a great experience. From the outside you can relax if you want to but on the field there’s no scope.
You must have been practising your skills in the nets. But what do you do to prepare mentally to come out and succeed in a match-situation?
You can practise all you want but in a match situation things don’t pan out as per your planning. In the nets you can hit any shot and you can still bat on but one bad shot in a match can end it for you. It’s important to prepare mentally before a game. I did it by watching the knocks of Michael Hussey and MS Dhoni from the last match and visualised myself doing the same.
Were you happy or nervous when you knew that CSK was batting first?
I had never opened the batting before this in the IPL. I was sent in with the instruction to enjoy myself. I tried to do that and it paid off to a certain extent.
What did you learn while batting with Mike Hussey?
Batting with him made my life easier. He’s such an outstanding player that a boundary is always around the corner. There was hardly any pressure on me. I just hit the ball I thought I could hit. I learnt a lot in terms of how he prepares mentally for every ball, what shot he plays in which situations. He knows well how to score runs based on his areas of strength.
You’re not used to playing against a team from Kolkata, are you? You often play for them.
It doesn’t matter that I am playing against a team from the city I belong to. I play for CSK now and I have forgotten KKR. They are the enemies now (smiles).
With the Indian team and CSK team do you work more on your fielding skills than wicket-keeping?
Yes, I don’t get many opportunities to keep wickets with Dhoni in the team. So, I have to play as a fielder. The good thing is that my fielding has always been good since I was a kid. Honestly, it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I am keeping or fielding. Yes, as a keeper more number of balls come to you. But in the end even as a fielder you have to watch every ball and be alert as any ball can come your way.
You hit Shami for two fours and a six in the first over. Were you relieved to see him bowling to you first up, knowing his game well?
It was definitely an advantage. We play together for Bengal and so I knew what length he bowls more in the shorter formats. The over panned out exactly the way I guessed it would. That over really helped me ease into the innings and gave me the initial confidence that was needed.
Kallis fired in some short balls but you hit them well. Were you prepared for the short-ball attack?
Yes, the overseas bowlers always tend to bowl short to the Indians. Whatever I have seen of Kallis, he generally bowled back of a length. So I was ready for those short balls. I hit a straight six and also played the pull shot a couple of times.
Those who had plans of watching ‘The Chris Gayle Show’ at the Wankhede stadium on Saturday had to return back disappointed. The Wankhede stadium witnessed one of the most intimidating spells of fast bowling as Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga bowled in tandem to restrict a power packed RCB batting line up to a paltry 34 in their first five overs.
Chris Gayle was hardly given any room to score freely, and some of the runs that he got were off edges and bouncers that luckily hit his bat to fetch him boundaries. Tillakaratne Dilshan too was finding life difficult at the centre as his efforts to accelerate went in vain as Mumbai Indians looked lively with the ball on the field.
Over number six, enter Dhawal Kulkarni and he got the struggling Dilshan in the fourth ball of his very first over this IPL. A fist pump by Dhawal followed, and the series of events after that only had the young Mumbai seamer walking back with a heart full of content and figures of 4-0-29-3 at the end of the day. Dhawal’s wait at the dugout was finally over as he got an opportunity to translate his hard work on the field against RCB on Saturday. Face lit with satisfaction and a performance that will keep him in good stead for the future, Dhawal spoke to IPLT20.com after the match.
Your first match of the IPL this year and a wonderful performance to start off?
I feel this is one of my best performances in the IPL. To get my first game this year and come out with a performance like this feels special. This was the opportunity that I got after a long time and I wanted to cash in on the opportunity.
Sitting in the dugout watching your teammates play, how eager were you to go out there and give your best shot?
It does not feel great to sit in the dugout, because you always want to go and perform for the team. I was working hard in the nets and working vigorously on my fitness over the past few weeks. I was waiting for this opportunity and I had the belief in myself that I would bowl well when I got the chance. It is great to end up on the winning side after bowling your heart out in the match. I do not want to stop here; I want to help my team win in the fixtures to come.
What was the discussion about Chris Gayle in the dressing room?
There was no plan as such; the only plan and brief for every bowler was to bowl to their strengths and not worry about his strength. We wanted to keep bowling up to him and keep it simple and make sure he does not get off to a flier.
How crucial were Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson’s spells at the start of the innings?
Very crucial! Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga are wicket taking bowlers and have always been good with the new ball. Both the RCB batsmen were aggressive at the start against them and finding it difficult to get runs against them, something that helped us restrict them in the first five overs. Then you backed up their performance by picking up three big wickets.
We knew we had to target the big three in the RCB setup. Getting Gayle early was definitely crucial, but we had to get AB, Dilshan and Kohli as well, because they had the ability to chase totals. Once we had their wickets, we knew it was our game from there.
Did the wicket assist your style of bowling?
The Wankhede wicket has always been full of swing and bounce. The ball was holding a little bit in the second innings. I bowled to my strengths and did not try to do much. I bowled at a particular line and length consistently and believed in keeping things simple.
Did the team feel safe after scoring 194 on the board?
The Wankhede wicket is a good wicket to bat on. We would have liked to defend a 200 plus score, but had to be satisfied with 194 which was a good total too. You can never jump into conclusions in T20s. We have seen RCB chase huge totals in their previous games and we did not want to take them lightly. Picking wickets at the start of the innings was crucial and our bowlers did a great job by sticking to the basics. It was a great team effort.
What aspects of your bowling have you worked on?
T20s are played at a very swift pace and some games take a toll on you mentally and physically. You have to take care of your fitness and also put in a lot of effort in the nets. I have been working on my fitness a lot and making an effort to bowl at a quick pace consistently. During the domestic season too I was aiming to bowl aggressively and looking to take wickets. The efforts kind of paid off.
Tell us about Rohit Sharma the captain.
Rohit has always been a good captain. I have played under him when he has led the Mumbai Ranji team and he knows how Mumbai players play their cricket. He is a good captain to play under and Saturday was no different.
What do Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting have to say about your bowling when they face you at the nets?
Sachin and Ponting share a lot of experiences at the nets with me. Sachin has always been there for me when I have needed him. Even in domestic cricket, he was there to help me out in various aspects of my bowling. Getting to share the dressing room and talk about the game with such legends is a big thing for me. Have you set any personal goals for this IPL?
I just want to keep my feet on the ground and keep performing without thinking about the results. I want to give my best for Mumbai Indians and pick wickets consistently.