Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain Gautam Gambhir pointed to Yusuf Pathan’s whirlwind 72 in the league match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SH) and Manish Pandey’s match-winning knock in the final as the “turning points” of his team’s victorious Pepsi IPL campaign.
The turning points in this tournament would be Yusuf's 72 off 22 balls (against SH on May 24). It took us to second position, which gave us two cracks at the cup. The second would be Manish’s innings -under pressure - in the final, Gambhir said after KKR defeated Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in the summit clash here on Sunday.
The southpaw refrained from comparing this title win to the one recorded in 2012, but stated that the stunning sequence of nine straight victories orchestrated in this edition made it “very special”. “After our first seven games, a lot of people may not have given us a chance. To get nine wins in a row from there says a lot about the character of the team. Halfway through the tournament, we were sixth or seventh. So to become the champion is something very special, which will stay close to my heart,” he said.
The captain had special praise for Pandey, whose 50-ball 94 paved the way for a successful chase against KXIP. “When we picked Pandey, we had a lot of faith and trust in him. He has delivered when it mattered the most. Not many franchises would have continued with him, as he struggled in the last couple of games. But, we always felt that he had the talent and fearlessness to play this kind of an innings,” he said.
George Bailey, the KXIP captain, doffed his hat to Pandey and the KKR bowling attack, stating that his team was outdone despite playing at full tilt.
“I don’t think our guys can do anything but be very proud of their performance. Kolkata have bowled well right throughout the tournament. I think they have got two of the better new-ball bowlers, and three terrific spin options “they are just a very well balanced attack,” Bailey said.
“Wriddhiman Saha’s innings (115 not out in 55 balls) summed up our tournament. He is probably a guy who is unheralded and underrated. For us, however, he has been solid as a rock,” he said.
The Australian acknowledged the “huge influence” that KXIP coach Sanjay Bangar has had on the squad.
“Bangar has been a huge influence. This is a wonderful group of people, and Bangar is the leader. Everything that you see and like about KXIP starts with Sanjay Bangar. His knowledge of the game; his ability to draw the younger players out of their shells; the way he has managed the overseas players - he has been fantastic. It has been a pleasure to work with him,” Bailey said.