S Badrinath, the Chennai Super Kings batsman, said that despite the tough time in the league phase, his side never doubted that they would make the semi-finals.
"To be honest, not even at one stage we really thought that we would not make the semi-finals. We were positive all through and it showed. We were really optimistic. That's how it has been," Badrinath told DNA.
At the halfway mark of the league stage, Chennai's campaign was going downhill with just two wins from seven matches. They then turned around the formbook, winning five of their return games to enter the semis on net run-rate.
"It has been a mixed bag for us. We have lost some games, won some, and also finished some games really well. We have won from unbelievable situations," Badrinath said. "The journey has been with lots of ups and downs for us this season and it is good to be there among the top four in the end. We are playing some good cricket at the moment and hope to continue in the same manner."
With Matthew Hayden in poor form, and MS Dhoni missing in action in the middle stages with injury, Badrinath shouldered extra burden in the middle order. He did reasonably well, scoring 305 runs at an average of 33.88.
"It has been a good season for me. The position where I bat, it is not easy to score fifties and hundreds, but [it is easier to get] 20s and 30s. But I feel I have done well at number four, finishing the game for my team and in the process got a couple of fifties too," he said.
Badrinath has for long carried the tag of Test specialist, and few expected him to succeed in the shortest format, but Chennai backed his abilities and he is thankful for the support. "I have always had the self belief. I felt that whatever you do people are going to be after you. I did not let it affect my game. I should also credit the team management of Chennai Super Kings who had faith in me and signed me up," he said.
Badrinath felt he had learnt a lot from his overseas team-mates, like Hayden and Michael Hussey. "It's the longevity and the attitude they play with. If you are going to be a world-class player and how long you can sustain and the attitude.
"I had a chat with Hussey while he was trying to break into the Australian side at an age when most are at peak. What was he thinking? He just said that he wanted to enjoy the game. You learn different thing every time and that is how you evolve as a player. That is what matters to me."
Badrinath's transition from being a technically sound, but restricted player to an innovative batsman has been aided by his ability to play unorthodox strokes such as the scoop shot. "The scoop shot has been my strength. It is not easy to play as you have to use the pace of the ball. You have to practise it over the years. I worked a lot over it," he said.
Chennai have made the semi-finals in each edition of the IPL without going all the way, but Badrinath believes his side has a good chance this year. "It's been the last match which has given us confidence as we have seen the ups and downs. We have become mentally tough. We have seen the pressure. It's hard. We have a good chance to win this time."