Shikhar Dhawan's amazing year continued, as he cracked a half-century to set up Sunrisers Hyderabad's eight-wicket win in his first match as the team's captain. While it felt "really nice" to begin his captaincy stint on a winning note, Dhawan said after the victory against Kandurata Maroons, he still has much to learn as a leader.
"It was my first day as captain. It is completely a new experience for me," he said. "It feels really nice to win your first match as captain.
"But there are still a lot of things that I need to learn. I know I will be making a lot of mistakes initially, but I will have to learn from them. This is part and parcel of the captaincy and I am enjoying it."
One of Dhawan's questionable decisions was bowling his main slow bowler, legspinner Amit Mishra, for just one over even as Kumar Sangakkara and Lahiru Thirimanne built towards a strong total. The pitch and the opposition prompted that decision, Dhawan said. "The wicket assisted the pacers more than the spinners. Amit Mishra was bowling well but there was hardly anything for him on this pitch.
"Moreover, they had a lot of left-handers on their team. That's why we couldn't use him much. I felt the fast bowlers had more to offer on this track." The other legspinner in the side, Karan Sharma, who proved effective in IPL 2013, did not bowl at all.
Sangakkara and Thirimanne had added 89 for the third wicket and were increasing the innings' momentum when Ishant Sharma bowled Thirimanne with a yorker. Ishant, the only bowler in the match to concede less than a run a ball, said he tried to keep the batsmen guessing. "When a batsman is going strong, you have to use all your experience to try and get the better of him," Ishant told the CLT20 website. "The wicket was very good for batting and so, I knew I had to mix things up a bit.
"Instead of bowling all six balls on the same spot I decided to vary my length. [In the over that Thirimanne was dismissed] I tried the fuller delivery, the slower one, bowled a bit short and he hit me for two fours. Off the fifth ball I thought I should bowl a yorker and fortunately I got it right. He tried to go for a big one and got out."
India's frequent clashes with Sri Lanka helped, Ishant said. "Most of the Kandurata Maroons players are international cricketers and hence we know what field to set to each of them and what strategy to form against each of them. We play a lot against them and we know their games inside out. That really helps."
Ishant had good words for Dhawan's captaincy. "He has evolved so much as a cricketer in the past one year and his confidence has risen up to another level. That shows in his captaincy as well," he said. "For instance, today, we were going for runs when Sangakkara and Thirimanne were batting but he created and maintained a very calm atmosphere on the field. He knows he has a good team and he believes in us as much as he believes in his own abilities with the bat."
Dhawan's 71, in a 121-run opening stand with Parthiv Patel in the chase of 169, capped off his fine day. He found batting a bit difficult to begin with, Dhawan said, but Parthiv's assured batting eased the pressure on him. "We knew we could chase down the total if we batted sensibly. The ball was coming on to the bat very nicely. The pitch had even bounce. It is not difficult to play shots on this wicket.
"But I wasn't connecting the ball well at the start. At the other end, Parthiv Patel was batting nicely and hitting the ball well. So, I thought I can take my time to settle down. In the end, we performed really well."