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Yusuf Pathan conjured up a 22-ball 72 to ensure the Kolkata Knight Riders a second-place finish in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014 points table. With the hosts requiring to attain the 161-run target in 15.2 overs, Pathan wielded his willow like a magic wand and decimated the Sunrisers Hyderabad attack to take his team across the line in 14.2 overs.
Robin Uthappa had once again helped set the tone of the innings, with a 30-ball 41. The opener, who had scripted a string of victories for KKR to take them to the Playoffs, was at a loss for words to describe the big-hitting Pathan’s blitzkrieg, which ensured that KKR play their Playoff match on their home ground.
While reflecting on the win, a visibly pleased Uthappa said, “Emotions would supersede the words, given how happy I feel for him today. He was striking the ball so cleanly and scoring those runs for us, getting us a victory that was so crucial.”
Excerpts from his interview:
Was finishing in second place at the back of your minds?
It wasn’t at the back of our minds; it was at the top of our heads, frankly speaking. There was an immense belief within the team that we would make it to the second spot and we knew that we were going to play here in Kolkata. In fact, even Danny Morrison asked me during the warm-ups if we would make it, and I told him that we are going to qualify in the second place. And he said, ‘Wow! I love that belief.’ It’s just something that is going around in this team. There is immense belief in this unit and it’s great. The atmosphere right now is absolutely fantastic.
How would you sum up your batting effort?
I think we batted extremely well; there is no doubt about that. We got the start that we needed. We laid a solid foundation and then Yusuf just ... oh man! There are no words to explain what a knock that was. When a couple wickets fell quickly, was there some nervousness?
No, we knew that we had to take that chance. We knew that we had to go after the bowling. And we also knew that even if we lost the game, we would still qualify for the Playoffs. We didn’t have much to lose. We just backed ourselves and started to go after the bowling, and it just worked for us. Like I said, the belief was there.
Knowing that there are big-hitters coming down the line-up, how does it help?
It definitely helps. And it is good that a lot of the boys got a hit before the Playoffs, and that was important as well. We are glad that everyone is striking the ball well and that is the most important thing getting into the business end of the tournament. In the most important phase of the tournament, you want your players in good nick. All of us are in superb nick, which is good, and we are grateful and looking forward to the next game.
While there were some brilliant pieces of fielding, there were a few lapses as well. Will that be an area that needs to be worked on?
I think we fielded brilliantly. Teams tend to have an off day and we are glad that the off day happened today. And I think we will pick up our fielding, and the energy will be up. And the momentum that this kind of victory has created will only boost our confidence in a big way.
You anchoring the innings has been one of the key factors in the team's success. Tells us about the responsibility you have assumed.
It is my job and responsibility as an opening batsman to get the team off to a good start and I am fulfilling it. I don’t look at it as anything more than that. I am doing my job. How do you do it differently when you are chasing and when you are setting a target?
It depends on the score that you are going after and how you feel on that particular day. On certain days, you need to work extra hard and on certain days runs come easily, so it depends on that. As long as you know your responsibility towards the team, I think you find your way through.
Sunrisers have defended lesser totals. So how had KKR prepared to counter the Dale Steyn-led attack?
I think we didn’t focus so much on their team. We focused on our strengths and what was required of us today. We knew that whatever score they got, we have to get it in 15.2 overs, and it came off.
What has been the key to KKR turning things around?
I think the team as fallen in place. The combination has fallen in place as well. Everyone in the team understands that we are a flexible unit. And our batting order has fallen in place, our bowling has been flexible and we are fielding well. Everyone understands each other. The camaraderie in the team has been good.
Morne Morkel and Sunil Narine play vital roles in the bowling unit. How do you manage their overs?
Gauti (Gambhir) has led the team fantastically by rotating the bowlers; and he is a very good captain. Credit must be given to him for managing the bowlers so well. I think he even eggs the bowlers on when it is not going well. It is important to have someone like him to guide the team, and he is guiding the team beautifully.
What was the feeling when Yusuf was batting?
For me, it was immense joy. I was extremely happy for him. And that is just putting it mildly. I was so happy for him, I can’t explain in words. Emotions would supersede the words, given how happy I feel for him today. He was striking the ball so cleanly and scoring those runs for us, getting us a victory that was so crucial.
What was your advice to him?
Mine was just simple: Keep your head still and watch the ball. You can smash it as hard as you want.
It was a sea of green at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, as the crowd came out in big numbers to cheer for the home team in their final game of this season’s IPL. But barring Virat Kohli’s brilliance, the crowd had nothing to cheer for as the Royal Challengers Bangalore lost against the Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets. Dwayne Smith, as usual, started off in clinical fashion, setting up a perfect platform for the run-chase. After his departure, Faf du Plessis and captain MS Dhoni scaled the target in style with an unbeaten 75-run stand.
du Plessis, who has opened the innings for CSK in the last two games, said that he was enjoying his new role at the top of the order and admitted to batting at his best while facing the new ball. In this post-match chat, du Plessis speaks about his new role and the match-winning partnership with his captain.
Excerpts from his interview:
How important is this win for the Chennai Super Kings?
We had some real good momentum throughout the tournament and then kind of lost it in the last three games when things did not go our way. It was really necessary to find some sort of winning momentum before the Playoffs. With this win, we can forget about the earlier losses and focus on the important matches ahead. We played well tonight and now we have the momentum on our side. Enjoying your new role as an opener?
(Smiles) I really enjoy batting at the top of the order. I have really enjoyed opening the batting in the last two games where I can play normal cricket shots but still be very aggressive. Personally, I feel I am batting at my best when I am opening the batting. But having said that, this sport is not about individuals and it is what the team requires me to do. Obviously, when Brendon McCullum comes back, I would slide back to No.4 because of the balance of our side. I do not mind that and I will fit into what the team thinks is best.
How did you plan your innings after Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina’s dismissals?
The wicket was getting a bit slower and the ball started turning a bit and it was really important not to lose wickets because we had lost Suresh Raina and Dwayne Smith. I was not trying to hit boundaries and was only trying to rotate the strike as much as possible when MS Dhoni walked in to bat. And when MS Dhoni decides to go for the kill, it is just hard to stop him.
How does it help to have MS dhoni bat at the other end?
It does help having Dhoni on the other side. When the ball is soft, it is harder to hit sixes, but you know Dhoni can do that. We worked well in that partnership. I knew he could hit and he knew that I was going to get him on strike for the majority of the time. He faced most of the balls in that partnership and I am very happy with that because he is destructive. It was a good combination to close the game down.
After the toil throughout the tournament, is this the time that matters the most?
We are really looking forward to giving our best in the games to follow. Chennai Super Kings is a side that plays well in the big games. We have been in a lot of finals and we will do what it takes to win the games that matter the most from now on.