Kolkata: Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir on Thursday said their sixth win on the trot in the Indian Premier League was not a fluke and asked his team-mates to maintain the intensity in the playoffs. "It's still a long way to go. The important thing is to turn up in two days time and play with same passion. The actual tournament starts now," Gambhir said after KKR beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 30 runs to book a play-off berth.
The 2012 champions had started off the tournament with two wins from the first seven matches and had a four-match losing streak before bouncing back in style with six wins on the trot after the India leg began.
Gambhir said he always believed in his team and backed his boys despite losing four matches in a row. "I'm pretty relieved... It's very satisfying. Deep inside the heart, I thought we had enough talent to turn it around. It's satisfying but not surprising. It has not happened by fluke. We have really worked hard for it. Everybody has taken up responsibilities," he said. (Match Highlights | Pics)
"We were close, not beaten by convincingly by anyone. We should have finished them but sometimes freak things happen. We're always very competitive and took the game to 19th and 20th over. I have always believed if we can use more brain and play intelligently and a bit more calm as well, we can turn it around," he added.
Gambhir said they were keen to remove the chokers tag and it was a personal decision of him to go for the chase in the five earlier games which they won.
"There's another reason I wanted to chase was that a lot of people were tagging us as chokers... To get that out of our mind, we wanted to chase. That was my personal decision to chase in those five games. I wanted to get rid of tag that we're chokers and cant finish games.
"By chasing five games in a row, it has given the entire unit a lot of confidence," he said referring to their four consecutive losses while chasing in the initial stage of IPL-7.
But RCB won the toss and put KKR upfront and Gambhir said it was not a problem for them either. "We have played some very good cricket. Deep inside I thought that we have the bowling attack to defend any total. We had the bowling attack to defend anything. It's just that we're comfortable chasing. We don't want to be a side known as chasers only," said Gambhir.
Asked whether it was a masterstroke to let Robin Uthappa open batting, something that had turned around KKR's fortunes, Gambhir said, "In such format, it will be the top three who will score the bulk of runs. This is the format. You have only 120 balls so somebody at the top will always get the scope to score heavily but I always believe in small contributions as well.
"Someone like Ryan ten Doeschate who struck that important six for us, those three balls (against Hyderabad) was equally important.
"Media do not give enough credit to small contributions but that does not happen in KKR. We always give credit to small contributions. Maybe a wicket here and there is also very important or a quick 15-20 by a lower order are the ones that set the game for us. Top three will always score runs, it's good that Robin has been scoring runs."
Asked about the areas of improvement, Gambhir said, "I am not someone who gets satisfied with results. there's always a room for improvement. We have been very professional but somewhere in the past we have not been able to finish the games and have the knock out punch. the good thing that has happened in the last six games that we have the character to deliver the knock out punch."
On his captaincy, he said, "I maintain captain is always as good as a team. Individual does not have any place in team sport. It's an honour, I'm only as good as the team. The entire credit should be given to the squad, all the 23 people in the squad. We have some great leaders off the field as well which is very important."
Meanwhile, for RCB it was the end of the road after losing and their top-scorer Yogesh Takawale (45 from 36 balls) said they missed out on a match winning partnership.
"It was a batting wicket. If we had another good partnership, it would have been a different result," Takawale, who shared 85 runs with captain Virat Kohli (38), said.
"If we could have batted for at least 15 overs, things would have been different. As I said we just wanted another partnership. Robin and Shakib batted well."