A clear head and trust in his instincts were crucial factors in Rising Pune Supergiant opener Rahul Tripathi scoring a barrage of boundaries against one of the strongest attacks in the tournament, on an Eden Gardens surface that most of his team-mates struggled on.
Tripathi smashed 78 of his 93 runs in boundaries - at one stage it was 50 out of 53 - and was only dismissed in the penultimate over of the chase, when Rising Pune were six runs away from their target of 156.
"If I had made some plans that wouldn't have worked because these are good bowlers, they are a good bowling side," Tripathi told iplt20.com. "So I just kept it simple to watch the ball and hit the ball and just go with my gut feeling. Keeping my mind blank … that was important and that helped me today. I played as the ball was coming so I played according to the merit of the ball.
"I feel good. I was getting good starts so I wanted to carry on that start. It's good that we won the match, that is more important. I would have loved to finish the match, that's one thing. But it's okay, if we win the match it's okay I miss the century."
Tripathi has impressed with his crisp strokeplay while opening in the IPL and is fifth on the run-scorers' list behind David Warner, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Shikhar Dhawan.
He's also given Rising Pune rapid starts by scoring freely against fast bowlers, especially by targeting the off side, and revelled on a re-laid pacer-friendly Eden Gardens pitch on Wednesday. While he has scored briskly against the spinners too, his 224 runs against pace at a strike rate of 159 shade his 128 runs against spinners at a strike rate of 149. He said sharing the dressing room with international players had given him a lot of confidence.
"It's helping me a lot, it's a dream experience for me. Opening with Ajinkya bhai, even if he says simple things like, 'you are batting well,' you get a belief that somebody like Ajinkya Rahane is telling you that you are hitting the ball well with good intent," Tripathi said. "Even off the field, Faf [du Plessis] is there, Ben [Stokes] is there, even the coaches, our team is having so much fun. Playing with MS [Dhoni] bhai … he's a legend. Two times I've been not out luckily while batting with him."
Against Kolkata Knight Riders, Tripathi showed his love for the leg side too. Of his seven sixes, six were smashed on the leg side off Umesh Yadav, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kuldeep Yadav. While he pulled and hooked the quick bowlers, he also made reading Kuldeep's wristspin look easy by hammering him for three consecutive sixes in the 13th over. Kuldeep had troubled Dhoni and Manoj Tiwary with his wrong'uns in their previous match in Pune, but Tripathi smacked 29 runs off the 10 balls he faced from the wristspinner on Wednesday.
Tripathi now has more runs this IPL season than his international team-mates Steven Smith and Stokes, and has given his team solid starts even as Rahane averages just over 20 at a strike rate of 120 in 11 innings. Tripathi's 251 runs off 144 balls is also the best Powerplay aggregate this season, ahead of Warner's 238 off 160 balls.
However, he did not hesitate to admit that batting in front of big crowds in the IPL got him nervous sometimes. "I'm not that much used to playing in front of such crowds so I got late to react both times," he said, about getting run out twice this season.
Tripathi's innings ensured Rising Pune went third in the league, over-taking Sunrisers Hyderabad with their sixth win in seven games. Both teams have played 11 games and Rising Pune have 14 points, while Sunrisers have 13.