No words to explain Yusuf’s knock: Uthappa

KKR opener says team was confident of sealing second place

Kolkata 25 May 2014
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.
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