Kolkata: Even the most ardent Kolkata Knight Riders fans in the Eden Gardens wouldn’t have anticipated that Shardul Thakur would bring the turnaround with the bat against Royal Challengers Bangalore when the hosts’ were down and out at 89/5 in 11.3 overs.
But Thakur slammed 68 off 29 balls, with nine fours and three sixes at a strike-rate of 234.48 and grabbed the record for the joint-fastest fifty of the season along with Jos Buttler in 20 balls. He also shared an important 103-run stand off just 47 balls with Rinku Singh, who struggled but opened up to hit 46 off 33 balls.
The duo’s efforts in a scintillating turnaround meant Kolkata fetched a whopping 110 runs in the last eight overs, which set the base for their 81-run thrashing of RCB.
On being given Player of the Match award, Thakur admitted that he himself didn’t know from where the whirlwind knock came.
“Even, I don’t know where it came from! Looking at the scorecard, everyone would have said we were struggling. But your subconscious mind takes over. You also have to have skills to do that at the higher level, but we also work hard in the nets,” he said in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Thakur, who took a catch of Shahbaz Ahmed and dismissed Michael Bracewell, credited the power-hitting training and spinners for making it a perfect homecoming for KKR.
“Coaching staff do the throwdowns, and give us the option of range-hitting. And you know the pitches; they always suit the batsmen, don’t they? Suyash bowled exceptionally well, and we know the quality Sunil and Varun have. They have fun, take wickets. This was a perfect day,” the all-rounder said.
Skipper Nitish Rana was all praise for Shardul and Rinku, while reserving special mention for debutant spinner Suyash Sharma, who left a huge impression in his very first game of professional cricket through his spell of 3/30 in four overs, with 11 dot balls to show.
“If you look at the last match, there were positives; we were in the game even after seven down. Even today, we collapsed, and credit to Gurbaz. And it was an unbelievable innings from Shardul Thakur! People will talk about Shardul, but Rinku held one end up, as we had planned,” Rana said.
“We had always planned not to give RCB batters pace in the middle overs. Suyash, playing his first match, bowled brilliant balls to such batters. Not even we have got to know him so far! He backs himself. It was always our plan to add him if we needed a third spinner,” he added.
Head coach Chandrakant Pandit was happy with how Shardul and Rinku led the KKR fightback with the bat, while appreciating Suyash’s attitude.
“It’s a good win. Boys have shown the character. Looking at the initial stage, having lost wickets, and coming back to get 200-plus. We just expected the pitch to help the spinners.
But you require enough runs. Shardul and Rinku counterattacked the opposition. We have seen him (Suyash) at trial matches. He is very quick in the air, and it’s very tough to pick him. It’s just the inexperience; but he showed a fighting attitude,” Pandit said.
RCB captain Faf du Plessis rued the extra runs given away by his bowlers and the troika of KKR spinners bamboozling his batting line-up.
“We had it set up there in the 12th or 13th over… It was probably 20-25 runs too much. Shardul played well. Their leg spinners got on top of us,” Du Plessis said.
“It was still a good wicket… but the nature of mystery spinners is that they get wickets. They put the squeeze on us. We were pretty average with the bat. You learn lessons. Two or three days ago, you played brilliant cricket. It got away from us,” he added.