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Before this game, he had played only one out of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s four matches in Pepsi IPL 2014 in which he returned 0 for 28 in two overs. But it was Irfan Pathan who stalled the rampaging Kieron Pollard in the last over to secure a stunning win against Mumbai Indians in the last match of the UAE leg.
After being introduced into the attack in the 16th over, Irfan finished with 2-0-10-2 as the Sunrisers registered a 15-run win.
Elated with his performance, Irfan spoke to iplt20.com about it after the game. He discussed his bowling plans and explained how different members of the SRH team helped him seal the thrilling win.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
Irfan, what a performance!
I didn’t bowl much in the previous games and I thought I might not bowl even today. But then, Pollard got going and that gave me an opportunity to bowl. This performance is going to take me a long way in the tournament. Coming back from injury is never easy, but when you start giving performances like this, the process of regaining your rhythm gets faster. Were you especially fired up today because of not getting too many chances in the past?
Absolutely! I am a bowler and I know what I am capable of doing. To be a bowler, you have to have that fire. If you don’t have it, you might as well just go and bat. I understand that you must earn the trust of your captain and show that you are improving continuously. Today, I had a good chat with Laxman bhai before the game. He said, 'No matter what you do outside the park, you need that fire and aggression between the 22 yards; that’s what counts'. That struck me. His words have always helped me out and they did today again.
With what plan did you go with to bowl?
There were a couple of people – Shikhar and Sammy – who wanted to tell me things and help me form plans. But I tried to keep my head clear. Then Steyn came to me and said, ‘Whatever you do, just make sure you focus all your energy in that’. Also, after Steyn bowled the 18th over, Shikhar told me I will be bowling the final over. That gave me the time to get prepared mentally. I decided to go with a clear plan of bowling the best yorkers I could and leave the rest to the batsman. Fortunately, most of the balls pitched nearly there and thereabout.
When you got Pollard out, did you think, ‘Okay, I have won the match for the team’?
They needed 20 runs from the last over, but guys like Pollard need just three balls to get 18 runs. Getting him out the first ball made the remaining five balls much easier. However, they could win it with a couple of sixes and fours and so I knew it wasn’t finished. But yes, with Pollard’s wicket, I thought the job was half done.
There would be so much you can pick from Steyn, but if I were to ask you to single out one thing, what would it be?
The energy that he puts in everything he does is amazing. In the training and especially in the matches, the amount of effort that he puts, he gives it all. That’s something to learn from him for any bowler, young or old.
Do the batsmen in your team help you improve as a bowler?
They do but one man who has really been helping me is Champaka Ramanayake, our bowling coach from Sri Lanka. He has vast experience and I get the feeling that he is going to make a lot of difference in my game. He is very similar to TA Sekhar sir, but when it comes to simulating game scenarios in training, Champaka makes them very simple. Also, he makes me work on a particular aspect of my bowling in every net session. There has not been a single session where I haven’t worked on something specific.
Will this bowling performance also help you gain confidence in batting and make you better equipped in finishing matches for the team when needed?
Honestly, my batting is pretty good right now and I am hitting the ball well in the nets. My bowling will keep getting better and better. Batting is easier when coming back from injury, but bowling is tough. So, in the next five-six matches, you’ll see that my bowling rhythm will keep getting better. For that I will need to play more matches; that’s the best way for me to improve.
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.