Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who played a crucial role along with Mahendra Singh Dhoni in rescuing India after a startling collapse in the second ODI, said the former captain asked him to build his knock like he does in Tests. Bhuvneshwar scored 53 - his maiden fifty in ODIs - and raised a 100-run unbeaten partnership with Dhoni for eight wicket to guide India to a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Thursday in Pallekele.
"When I went in to bat, MS told me to play my natural game like I play in Test cricket and don't take any pressure as we had a lot of overs at that time. We knew if we played them out we would chase easily," Bhuvneshwar said at the post match press conference.
"I knew there is nothing to lose in this situation as we were already seven down. I was just thinking that I can play and that I have to support MS as much as I can. And that's what I tried to do," he said.
Lankan off-spinner Akila Dananjaya took six for 54, his maiden ODI five-wicket haul, to trigger Indian middle order collapse after an aggressive start from Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
"It was a little surprising because we had a very good opening partnership. Then 3-4 wickets fell quickly so it was a bit of a panic situation for us. There was no message as such from the dressing room or MS Dhoni.
"The only thing was they wanted me to play as long as possible. I also wanted to do the same thing because that was the only chance to win if I could play all those 47 overs. That was my plan," Bhuvneshwar said.
Asked how he countered Dananjaya, who was on fire, Bhuvneshwar said: "I had a plan against him. He is an off-spinner but he was also bowling leg spinners and googlies so it was a surprise for us. I just wanted to play him for the wrong one or the googlies, which he was bringing in to me. And whatever was going away from me I wasn't really worried about that.
"Whatever wickets he took that was on the googly, the incoming delivery, so my plan was to counter his incoming deliveries. Initially it was a bit difficult to read him from the hand but later on when I played him for 10-15 balls I could read his variations," he explained.
A key highlight of his partnership with Dhoni was running between wickets. Also the turning moment came when Dhoni played onto his stumps in the 34th over but the bails didn't come down. Kumar also survived a DRS shout for LBW in the next over and then played some attacking shots to take India to victory as Dhoni held fort at the other end.
"It was a normal plan because we knew that we didn't need to do anything different. We tried that whatever opportunity we get for singles or doubles we will not leave that because by adding singles we wouldn't reach a stage of needing 6-7 runs per over as we didn't have many batsmen left. We weren't running extra hard or trying to do anything special. We just played normally," said Kumar.
"MS said play as you want to play. So at one particular stage I felt that I could play some attacking but risk free shots on which I had full confidence. So it's not like that he gave me any responsibility or asked me to play any big shots. It's just that the stage was such that I had confidence on myself that if I get such a ball I can hit it," he added.
Kumar scored his maiden half-century in ODIs, a first for an Indian batsman at no.9 after Praveen Kumar achieved the feat against Australia in 2009. He credited assistant coach Sanjay Bangar for this good run.
"I never thought in my dreams that I would score fifty in one-dayers. Not fifty but match winning knock because one-day cricket is a kind of format which doesn't suit my batting as I am not the kind of batsman who can hit big sixes.
"But that kind of situation was perfect for me because it was totally a Test match situation. Thanks to Sanjay Bangar, he was working really hard on me during the Test series. Whenever I go into the nets Bangar helps me to counter those things, like I have to go through the last session of a Test. So it was same kind of situation and that was a bit familiar for me," he signed off.
(With PTI Inputs)