Warne's belief gave me confidence - Kamran
Kamran Khan slept well Thursday, hours after he had turned the match against Kolkata Knight Riders on its head in favour of Rajasthan Royals. Asked to bowl the final over against Kolkata, who needed seven runs for victory in Durban, Kamran forced a tie.
Minutes later, he returned to his bowling mark with a smile on his face after his captain, and No. 1 backer, Shane Warne asked him to deliver the Super Over. Kamran managed to keep the marauding Chris Gayle from trampling him, limiting the target to a gettable 16 runs. Moments later, Yusuf Pathan charged Ajantha Mendis several times into the crowd to give Rajasthan their first victory in South Africa, which had looked improbable at one stage. But Kamran never had any doubt.
Kamran, an 18-year-old left-arm fast bowler from Azamgarh in the north-Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, impressed Warne instantly after bowling one over against the Cape Cobras in a warm-up game, played couple of days before the IPL kicked off. Since then Warne has not stopped gushing about his new team-mate, who was spotted by Rajasthan team director Darren Berry at a talent scouting camp earlier this year.
Kamran's initiation has been smooth and in a matter of weeks he has become pivotal to Rajasthan's bowling strategy, especially in the absence of last year's key performers Sohail Tanvir and Shane Watson. Kamran said what has helped him settle down easily is the team's belief in winning and Warne's faith in each and every man in the squad - something that paved the way for Rajasthan to win the inaugural IPL.
"We are a champion team and we need to perform like a champion team. That has been the message everyone has been talking about," Kamran told Cricinfo from Cape Town after his evening prayers on Saturday. Of course, the fact that his captain has enough faith in him is not lost on Kamran. "Warne always keeps encouraging and motivating me. That, obviously, gives confidence. I felt very good that there is someone who has belief in me."
That support was the driving force behind Kamran's excellent two-over spell at the end, the turning point, against Kolkata. The resolute Sourav Ganguly had brought Kolkata to the doorstep of victory, but Kamran, too, was not going to blink easily - the stage now was set for an interesting duel.
"Warne had already signalled to me earlier that I would bowl the final over. So I was prepared. There was no pressure even if they needed only six runs. I had no plan except that I should get Ganguly out … I just needed to get his wicket. Before the penultimate delivery of the match I thought he [Ganguly] would want to finish it off without waiting for another ball. And when I saw him move to make room I bowled the length ball and he gave an easy catch. I was happy but not extraordinarily excited or anything like that for getting Ganguly, such a big wicket," Kamran said.
Warne praised the youngster's "good ball". But there was one more delivery to go. "For the last ball I set the field for a yorker. I was bowling to win the game and not a tie, but Ishant Sharma dug out that yorker well to run the single," Kamran said with a chuckle.
Kamran's job wasn't done yet; the Super Over remained. Wasn't he drained after such a tight final over? "I was not tired and I thought I would be the one to deliver the Super Over. I was confident. And Warne told me to be ready."
Was there any special message from Warne? None. "He told me to enjoy cricket and not be serious about it. He said, 'I like your smile and keep that when you bowl'. That lightened me up and helped me to focus."
Once back to the bowling mark Kamran did not panic. "There was no particular or special plan in my mind against Gayle. I knew the first ball would be a yorker. The second would also be in a block hole. He hit some good shots but I got lucky to get him on the final ball. Fifteen runs. I knew we had good hitters and that was not impossible. And when I saw Ajantha Mendis we knew [Yusuf] Pathan would win it for us - if he could stick for those six balls it would be easy."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo