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Excitement, thrill and at the end of it, euphoria took centre stage whenRajasthan Royals’ Brad Hodge whacked Darren Sammy’s second ball of the last over for a six. The result; Rajasthan Royals booked a place in the Champions League T20 and more importantly got a step closer to the final of the IPL.
The man of the moment, the man at the centre of all the action to take RR to a thrilling victory, was Brad Hodge, a T20 veteran of sorts with 5548 runs in the shortest format of the game; the most by any batsman. It was a night when Hodge’s year’s of experience in this format was put to test and how well the Australian succeeded.
“It was a close contest and that is exactly where you need your experience to get a team over the line,” said Hodge, visibly excited with a broad smile on his face as he was up for a chat with IPLT20.com.
“This is the most thrilling game I have ever played in the IPL. I have played for KKR and the Kochi Tuskers Kerala in the past editions. This is the first time with RR and I am delighted to win the game for the team. “We are just a step away from the all important final,” exclaimed the Australian. When RR won the game, there was emotions galore in the dug-out. There was fist pumping in the air by the players and the support stuff even as the players ran to the centre of the pitch to give their hero of the day a pat on the back for keeping his cool and holding his nerve in such a tight contest.
Not surprisingly, RR captain Rahul Dravid was a happy man as he gave Hodge a tight hug in appreciation. “Rahul was delighted when I walked back to the dug-out. It has been an emotional week for us, an emotional week at the bench and it is a really good result for Rajasthan Royals and especially for Rahul Dravid,” expressed Hodge. The win did not come easy for the Royals. They lost half their side under sixty runs chasing 133 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad who have fancied themselves, defending low totals in the tournament. Hodge accepted that his side was under pressure when they lost the plot midway.
“The wicket was a fraction slow that suited the type of cricket SRH have been playing through the tournament. We wanted to try and be aggressive early on in the innings. We got a decent start but faltered mid-way. It did not go according to the script, but I am glad we got there in the end.”
The Royals lost wickets at regular intervals and also the ploy of throwing the youngsters to difficult situations almost backfired with the likes of Dishant Yagnik, Sanju Viswanad and Stuart Binny all going back without any notable contributions. Hodge was just happy they could get over the line at the end of it.
“We were slightly under pressure while chasing the stiff target. We found ourselves in a bit of a hole and needed a few shots to come off well to get the asking rate down. Thankfully, we got a couple of shots in the stands which helped us get over the line.”
Rajasthan Royals now face Mumbai Indians in their next fixture and a win would get them one step closer to the final. “Everyone wants to play in the final and it is satisfying to see that you are just a step away from the final. We have had a great season this year and have been one of the top teams in the competition and it was only fitting that we got a chance to play and get closer to grabbing the trophy,” Hodge said.
Led by the calm, composed and methodical Rahul Dravid, Rajasthan Royalshave made their way to the Qualifier II of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013.
The former India captain has worked diligently with the coach and support staff to chart the path for the Jaipur franchise’s success. They worked out the details with painstaking effort and spent time with each individual player to ensure role clarity and emphasised on team work. Leading from the front, the RR skipper worked out ways to utilise the resources available to him to their maximum potential. Dravid, who thrives on planning and the intellectual aspect of the game spoke to IPLT20.comafter their thrilling victory over the Sunrisers Hyderabadin the Eliminator about the ‘fairytale’ run that the Royals have had in the sixth edition.
Excerpts from the interview:
Congratulations on a great season so far and an amazing victory in the eliminator! What has it been like mentoring and working with youngsters?
It has been a great journey. It has been amazing for us to be in this position to play a qualifier and get a chance and great a crack at the IPL title. With the side that we have; it’s a great feeling. It’s amazing for us. It’s like a fairytale!
Brad Hodge had spoken about his role lower down the order and yours at the top. Things have gone according to plan. How has the team gone about successfully executing plans and strategies?
If it doesn’t come off it doesn’t look very good but when it comes off on days like this all that planning, all that thought, all that effort everything seems worth it. We have got two big players – (Shane) Watson and (Brad) Hodge we have got to try and see how we balance them and all of us have to bat around them. And it worked out brilliantly on Wednesday. Watson gave us a bit of a flying start and Hodgey was there to finish it off. What a brilliant innings!
You have always spoken about the contributions of Paddy Upton and Monty Desai. Please take us through their roles
I think Paddy, Monty, Zubin (Bharucha) have been a great team this year. They have worked really hard with lot of the players. I think we have created a great environment around the team that has allowed a lot of the youngsters to express themselves and to play freely, to enjoy their cricket most importantly and I think that is showing in the results.
The players in your squad have always spoken about the role clarity that you have given to them which in turn has helped them perform. How did you go about it?
It is just about having conversations with people, youngsters. Zubin and Paddy have really helped me in that area as well. This is a process that has started even before the IPL. We have had conversations with the youngsters. We have decided on what roles they can play. And let’s be honest we don’t have big stars so we have to get the best out of our youngsters and we have worked really hard on trying to do that and when it comes off you feel so satisfied.
Players who you think have a good potential moving forward?
Stuart Binny has had a great season; Sanju Viswanad has been fantastic this year for us. Ajinkya (Rahane) as usual has been a star, to just mention a few of these guys who you think are going to become really good players.
What has it been like captaining in T20 vis a vis in the Tests and one-dayers?
Captaining your country has been the greatest honour that you can ever have and I think nothing can take that away. But this has really been two enjoyable years for me. I have really loved working with the franchise. I think Rajasthan Royals is a really professionally run good franchise and we try to get the best out of ourselves and the best out of our resources. And there is a lot of planning and intelligence involved and that is really up my street and that is something that I really enjoy.
We are seeing that there is a lot of planning and strategy in T20 now. Your thoughts
Yes, I think you have got to be smart and clever in this form, in any form of the game and as more and more T20 games are being played you see more and more tactic evolved and people being smarter specially with field placing. I think the bowlers have bowled really well this year and they have come back and done a really good job. So you see new things but in the end it is a game, about performances and you need to perform when it matters in critical situations. We have been lucky as a team that whenever we have been down we have always found someone who has stood up.
I have had some good innings! But for me, it has not really been about my personal batting this year. It has been about the team and the success that the team has had; has given me so much happiness. I don’t know how many runs I have scored and I don’t even count the runs that I have scored but it has really been about the team and I am so happy that we have been able to achieve our potential and I think we can have another couple of good days, who knows!