'Will never forget Tendulkar's dropped chance' - Nadeem
Shahbaz Nadeem isn't a party animal. Still, the left-arm spinner was awake till 4am the morning after Delhi Daredevils thumped Mumbai Indians on Sunday. He was, obviously, "relieved" to have finally ended up on the winning side, but the two dropped catches - especially the return catch offered by Sachin Tendulkar - were weighing on his mind.
"I am no different from all the players of my generation when it comes to that man," Nadeem told ESPNcricinfo. "We have all grown up watching and idolising Sachin Tendulkar. So naturally playing with or against him is in itself an achievement for someone like me. But to earn his wicket is something that I aspire for as a bowler.
"Before the match, I prayed. Even before bowling that ball, I prayed, 'Allah, inka wicket dilao mujhe (God, please get me his wicket)'. And then to create an opportunity against him and let it go is something that will be on my mind forever. I don't know whether I will get another chance to get his wicket."
The two dropped catches, however, haven't overshadowed his good run with the ball. After impressing the Daredevils team management in his limited outings last year, Nadeem has been persisted with as the leading spinner from the start of the season. And he hasn't let them down, taking six wickets in seven match and bowling at an economy rate of 5.96.
In between the two IPL seasons, he had a good domestic season. Not only did he lead Jharkhand's charge into their maiden Ranji Trophy quarter-final, but also finished the premier domestic first-class championship as the most successful spinner, and the fourth-highest wicket-taker, with 42 wickets at an average of 25.97.
With such a strong performance, it wasn't surprising that Nadeem entered the IPL with the most vital ingredient a professional requires for any important assignment: confidence.
"I got used to the Daredevils set-up in the first year and then, picking so many wickets in the domestic season made me confident and relaxed," he said. "I hoped that I would get an opportunity and I am happy to have delivered so far."
With the team going through such a torrid time early on in the tournament, Nadeem was touted as the odd man out in a pack that was consistently failing to deliver. That made him all the more determined to "not experiment too much". About the morale in the side with the continuous failures, he said: "Delhi Daredevils is such a formidable unit that all we knew was that we had to continue with our efforts and do the right things till they fell in place."
While some experts might have been taken aback by the manner in which Daredevils stunned Mumbai, with Virender Sehwag making his presence felt for the first time this year, the side was unfazed by the outcome. For them, it was just one of the nine victories they require to make it to the playoffs.
"It was important to start winning. Before the Mumbai match, we discussed that we had ten matches and we had to win nine of those. With one win under our belt, we have to win eight more from nine games. And if there's one team that's capable of doing this, it is Delhi Daredevils," Nadeem signed off.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo