I was calm despite conceding two fours, says Gowtham

K Gowtham defended 13 runs in the final over to help Karnataka edge Tamil Nadu by one run in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy final. DH FILE PHOTO

K Gowtham is one player who rides high on self-belief. On Sunday, as the final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy reached a crescendo, Karnataka’s hopes of defending the title rested on Gowtham’s shoulders. 

Gowtham -- who revels in pressure-cooker situations -- was the best choice for skipper Manish Pandey to bowl the last over with Tamil Nadu requiring 13 runs which were eminently gettable given they had a set Vijay Shankar at the crease. Karnataka took ages to begin proceedings, with the captain and vice-captain duo of Pandey and Karun Nair having a long chat with the bowler. So what was Karnataka’s plan? 

“See, it’s very natural for seniors to come to you and talk to you in such pressure scenarios,” started Gowtham, reliving the tension-filled moments. “There were inputs on what lengths to bowl, what lines to bowl. But as a bowler, I have been in the system for a while and I know what exactly is happening and know how to handle the situation. We were all on the same page,” Gowtham told DH on Monday. 

It was a battle of two street-smart cricketers as the off-spinner geared up to bowl to R Ashwin. Just after the first two balls, Tamil Nadu had one hand on the trophy. The India international had slammed two consecutive fours to bring the equation down to five from four. After bowling the first one in the slot, Gowtham had sent a short one and Ashwin latched on to both of them.

It was a hopeless situation but the bowler hung on. “I was calm despite the first two balls going for boundaries. If you see the replays, you can see my face not giving away anything. I didn’t have any jitters. At that moment, I didn’t think of anything other than winning the game for my team. I told myself not to bowl short balls,” he recalled. 

The 31-year-old regrouped quickly and showcased his calibre by bowling four good-length deliveries to give away just three runs and help Karnataka snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. 

The match - that added a fresh chapter to the famous rivalry between the two teams - will remain in the memories of cricket buffs for a long time to come.

When the chips were down, backing himself to the hilt had worked for Gowtham. “When you want to play at the highest level, these kinds of games help you maintain that confidence, and going forward, you need to keep doing this to remind yourself and the people around you that you are good enough to be there at the highest level,” offered Gowtham, who finished with figures of 1/31. 

The Karnataka team, that also annexed the Vijay Hazare Trophy last season, has been hailed for its team spirit. Gowtham revealed an episode that explained the camaraderie between the players. 

“Before the start of the game, we were told that Mithun won’t be playing due to an injury. I told Mithun that I will win the final for him. We believe and enjoy each other’s success. And we always take the positives from each other,” he said.

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