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Although Steve Smith contributed a handy 19 not-out off 11 balls, it was a gentle push of the ball to extra cover for a couple of runs off Sunil Narine that will be cherished. It was the shot that got Rajasthan Royals home in a thrilling Super Over finish against Kolkata Knight Riders.
After sealing the incredible win, Smith relived the drama in a chat with iplt20.com. Here are excerpts from that chat:
Reaction to that game?
It was an exciting game and it is just great to be at the right end of it.
With what mindset did you go in to bat in the Super Over?
I tried to keep my mind as clear as possible. I was certain of one thing – I will only hit the ball if it is in my area, otherwise, I’ll just run a couple and that’s it. I had decided that no matter what happens, I will not force a big shot where it is not there. I just got a double and a single and gave the strike to Watto, who I knew will surely launch one, as he did. He got one boundary away and that really set the over up. An all-Aussie show that – Faulkner’s over included?
Oh, yes! It was nice to be batting in the Super Over with Watto. The way we fought back with the ball was outstanding. Faulkner bowled beautifully; three wickets in an over changed the game completely. He is pretty excited. Hopefully, the form continues in India and we can win a few more.
What was the turning point of the match – the Faulkner over or you running Piyush Chawla out in the final over?
I think that over from Faulkner turned the match in our favour. Until then, the game was pretty much in the balance, and in fact, they were probably in front. With three wickets falling in one over, it got really tough for the new batsmen to have a go straight away. Credit to James for the way he handled himself in that situation and got us back into the game.
What is more important in such situations – calm nerves or excellent skills?
It depends on what you’re trying to do. If you decide to so something funky, like a lap shot or any other outrageous shot, you need things to go your way a bit. On the other hand, if you are sure you’ll only execute the skills that you know, you tend to remain calmer.
Did you grow in confidence when you saw a KKR spinner coming on to bowl?
I will not say confident because Sunil Narine is a very guileful bowler and he has improved so much by playing in the IPL. He is very hard to go away, but at that time, we had to try. Watto got one over and it proved crucial in the end.
In the end, it was the birthday boy, James Faulkner, who stole the limelight, but it was Ajinkya Rahane’s 59-ball 72 that laid the platform for Rajasthan Royals’ nerve-wracking Super Over win over Kolkata Knight Riders.
As the victory celebrations reached their zenith, Rahane emerged demurely from the change room and spoke to iplt20.com about his team’s sensational win. He also spoke of the team’s changed balance without Rahul Dravid as a player and compared the captaincy of Dravid and Shane Watson.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
You started the UAE leg with a 50 and now finishing it with another one. And what a win!
What a game! Absolutely nail-biting. I am elated with the team’s performance. Everybody held their nerve in tense conditions. The credit goes to the bowlers for the way they pulled the game in our favour in the end overs. I am very happy for all the bowlers, particularly James Faulkner. He actually brought us back in the game with that three-wicket over. He absolutely deserves his Man of the Match award, which is a great birthday present for him.
Did you get tempted to ask the captain if you could go bat in the Super Over?
I actually wanted to tell him that but then I thought it was wise to back Stuart (Binny). Although he got out without scoring in the match, he is a big hitter and it was only logical to back him for something like a Super Over.
Has it been a very different experience for you to open with Karun Nair after opening with Dravid last year?
It is different but Rahul bhai and Shane Watson have already spoken to the new guys about what their roles are in the team’s batting set-up. That makes my job easy to stick to my own game. If I play the first six overs off, I try to stay till the end and maintain the run-rate by hitting the loose balls.
Has your approach changed in any way now that you don’t have Dravid at the other end?
No, thanks to Rahul bhai, it hasn’t. At the beginning of the season, he told me specifically not to change my game just because my opening partner is different. He said, ‘Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself and bat like yourself’.
Is this the time when you take the first step towards being a senior batsman in the team?
I am not really thinking on those lines but I do feel I have some more responsibility on the batting front now that Rahul bhai is not playing. I love added responsibilities as they make me work hard, and in turn, help me improve as a cricketer.
How’s it been playing under Shane Watson this year?
He has been wonderful. In so many ways he is very similar to Rahul bhai as captain. Like him, Shane too is very calm in the middle and makes his decisions with a cool head. They both have the ability to hold their nerves in pressure situations and take their own time in making the right decision.