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Various members of Kings XI Punjab team had put up swashbuckling performances throughout Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014, and it was Wriddhiman Saha’s turn in the Final. The wicketkeeper-batsman entertained the crowd with an unbeaten 55-ball 115 as he took his team to 199 after they were asked to bat first by the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Coming in to bat at 30 for two, Saha bided his time before he took apart the KKR attack to race to his century and hence becoming the first player to strike a ton in an IPL Final. He swept, hooked and pulled as he piled on runs before reaching the three-figure mark with a six over long-on off Sunil Narine. Although he received a life while on 60, the wiry batsman continued unperturbed as he helped set the opposition a formidable target.
However, his heroics went in vain as the Gautam Gambhir-led side chased down that target. A visibly disappointed Saha reflected on his knock and appreciated KKR’s Manish Pandey’s (94) innings while speaking to IPLT20.com about the match.
Excerpts from his interview:
You became the first player to score a century in an IPL Final.
It would have felt better if the team would have won. The team winning means more than your performance. The century was good. We made a good comeback after being 30 for two to set the opposition a good target.
What did you think would have been a good target?
We didn’t have a good start, but we recovered well. We were thinking that 180 would have been a good total. We scored 199, but fell short somewhere. Now, we feel that maybe if we had more runs on the board, it would have been better. Everyone tried hard for the win, however, KKR played well too. Manish Pandey and Yusuf bhai (Pathan) did well.
Talk us through your 129-run partnership with Manan Vohra. What were you telling each other?
We had a good partnership once before, against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He has been batting well since. When we went in to bat, the idea was only to keep rotating the strike and hit the loose deliveries. And as the partnership progressed, the confidence also grew and we were hitting good shots. What was your brief while coming in to bat?
My role in the team has been to rotate strike and try and get as many boundaries as possible, especially in the first six overs. And even if I come in to bat later, it is the same – to score as many runs as possible and keep the scoreboard moving. And the more opportunities Glenn Maxwell, David Miller and George Bailey get to hit, the better it is. Whoever is settled and hitting the ball well, has to see the team through to the end. And today, I was the one doing it.
What was the thought behind George Bailey promoting himself to No.3?
We tried that because their pacers bowl initially and George Bailey plays the pacers better. Had he been able to get runs, then maybe we would have had a higher total on the board.
How would you sum up the season?
The journey has been good. Earlier, I have played for KKR and Chennai Super Kings, and it has been good, but it has been exceptionally good and fun because if you play a lot of games together in domestic cricket and here, that’s good.
Rewind the clock to the 2012 IPL Final. Nine required off the last over – Manoj Tiwary and Shakib Al Hasan are in the middle. The Chennai Super Kings are in a long meeting amidst the tension, Tiwary has a blank look on his face, Shakib is on his haunches. Four deliveries later, KKR are crowned champions. Flash forward to 2014 – Shakib sure knows a thing or two when it comes to a steep run-chase in a grand finale, in the final over. The only difference is, this time he was in the dugout and not at the non-striker’s end. As Shakib says, he would have loved to hit the winning runs, but he was more than satisfied that his team was crowned champions for the second time.
Excerpts from his interview:
You just can’t stop smiling, can you?
(Laughs) An IPL victory – two times in three years – I can’t feel better than this. I wasn’t there last year for the Kolkata Knight Riders; maybe that is the reason we lost (chuckles). There were a lot of ups and down in the tournament this year, but the way we stuck together as a unit was amazing.
A big run-chase in the Final; did it bring back memories of 2012?
I wanted to bat till the end for my team and would have loved to be in the middle when the winning run was hit, just like in 2012. I did not finish the game, but it didn’t matter as long as we won at the end of it. This is a team sport and no matter who contributes, if we are on the winning side, we are more than happy.
Was the team confident of chasing that target of 200?
To be honest, I was very confident of the run-chase. We were scoring briskly from the first over and had a good score at the end of 10 overs. We had scored at a healthy run-rate and we backed ourselves to get the rest of the runs. The only way we could have lost was if we would have lost too many wickets in a hurry. We never got behind the required run-rate and we knew we had enough players in the team who would contribute and win the match for us.
Chasing 191 in 2012 and 200 in 2014 – what is with KKR and these huge run-chases?
(Laughs) We hope we win in 2015 as well, but don’t have to chase such a huge total every time in the Final. We would be more than happy if we have to chase down somewhere close to 160 (chuckles).
And what a day for Manish Pandey to get a big one!
Absolutely! The way Manish Pandey batted and paced his innings was remarkable. There was a talk in the dressing room that he was long due for a big one, and what a day he chose to come to the party.
What has been the highlight of the victories in 2012 and 2014?
If you look at 2012 and 2014, both victories in the Final were a result of consistent performances on the trot. We had a lot of wins in succession in 2012 as well, and this year, we sprung up nine consecutive victories. It is an excellent performance by the entire team. I don’t want to compare the two victories, I just want to enjoy this moment and savour it for a long time.