Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Nitish Rana, who bagged the Man of the Match award in their 71-run win over Delhi Daredevils on Monday, said he relishes the challenge of playing under pressure. KKR welcomed their previous skipper Gautam Gambhir with open arms at Eden Gardens but sent him back home with a heavy loss,
"It was an important game for us since we had lost the last two. My performance is better under pressure. I love playing under pressure," Rana said at the post-match conference.
Rana held the KKR innings together with a 35-ball 59, a knock that embodied poise and panache in equal measure as his team posted a tall 200/9 before bundling out Delhi for 129 with more than five overs to spare.
KKR returned to winning ways after two successive defeats against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings. This was their second victory from four matches and the former Mumbai Indians batsman played a crucial role.
Asked about his innings the 24-year-old played down his role and said it was a team effort as everyone fulfilled their responsibilities.
"I don't think I played such a huge role, everyone's been assigned a certain responsibility, I just had to fulfil that, so did the others," a modest Rana said.
Although Delhi lost three wickets inside as many overs, Glenn Maxwell (47) and Rishabh Pant (43) kept the Dardevils in the hunt with a fifty plus partnership before Kuldeep Yadav (3/32) triggered the collapse and Sunil Narine (3/18) wrapping the proceedings.
"Everyone has made a contribution in today's game. Take for example, Kuldeep's two wickets -- Rishabh Pant and Glenn Maxwell. Those wickets were very important at that point of time," he said.
However, Rana's knock was overshadowed by big-hitting Jamaican Andre Russell's blistering 12-ball 41, studded with six sixes.
Crediting Russell for being the game-changer, DD bowling coach Sridharan Sriram felt his team leaked runs and a score of 170-180 would have been a "par score".
"The way they got 200 was a bit too much on this wicket. I think 170-180 was a par score. That Russell blitz in the middle took the game away," Sriram said.
"His innings overshadowed what Nitish Rana did. Had Russell got out earlier, we would have still got them under 160. Rana wasn't going to be that dangerous compared to what Russell did," he added.
Sriram rued the drop catch of Russell, off the bowling of Mohammed Shami when he was on seven.
As it turned out Shami bore the brunt of the dropped catch as Russell smashed all his six sixes against the India speedster, who returned home for the first time, post his infamous domestic duel with wife Hasin Jahan.
Backing Shami fully, Sriram said: "He started well, his first couple of overs were very good. It would have been a completely different day for him if the catch was taken. He lost the plot for about 6-7 balls and that's enough for you to have a bad game.
(With PTI Inputs)