During the West Zone leg of Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 in March-April, a young scribe asked Yusuf Pathan how he'd counter Dale Steyn in the IPL. An agitated Pathan replied, "I think you did not see how I hooked Steyn for six in the last IPL in Hyderabad. Thank you very much."
Actually, it was a pull high and handsome over mid-wicket and Pathan raised his hands above his head to applaud his own shot after staring at Steyn, who acknowledged the shot at the top of his bowling mark before the next delivery. Pathan stayed unbeaten on 49 off 29 balls but ended on the losing side in that match.
But not on Saturday night, when Pathan demonstrated how he actually tackled Steyn, dismissing the South African pacer over wide long-on and then straight for sixes. It was hitting at its very best. After Pathan deposited Karn Sharma for a six early in his innings and summoned for water, one could see him as a man possessed. He was more than determined to complete the task for his team, that was to not just win but to do it within 15.2 overs and secure Kolkata Knight Riders the second place to face Kings XI Punjab at their home ground in Qualifier 1 on Tuesday.
Pathan takes criticism in the media seriously. He is mindful of what is being said or written about him. And, he likes to answer the critics with his bat. "If I get out in the first ball, you guys will criticise me badly saying I am playing poorly. People don't know what I do to achieve my goals. I know what I have to achieve, where to reach, what my ability is. Only I know how much I can score in an over and how hard I work to score those 20 runs," Pathan had said in Kolkata after Saturday night's madness.
"I back myself because I have worked hard, have studied well before the exams. What people say doesn't matter to me. They get paid to talk and I am paid for my work and to play."
With KKR wanting to win their last match inside 15.2 overs and not take it as a 20-over match, Pathan held the key. Having done little of note this season, and making the most of those dropped chances, Pathan had scant respect to any of the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers, least of all to Steyn. The South African pacer has been smashed all over the park this IPL, first by his compatriot AB de Villiers of Royal Challengers Bangalore. His reputation as the world's premier bowler took a beating when Pathan smashed him for 26 runs in his fourth and final over – the sequence of 4, 6, 6, 4, 4, 2 will bring nightmares for the Protean for some time to come. Pathan was long due for such a knock. He had slammed eight sixes in nine innings prior to the last match. And, seven came off his broad blade in that knock.
That KKR achieved the target with one over to spare — not in 19 overs but in 14.2 overs — is only due to Pathan's murderous assault, getting to the fastest ever IPL 50 in just 15 deliveries.
KKR have done some extraordinary things this IPL. Remember the Chris Lynn catch against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the boundary line after he slipped and still held on to an AB de Villiers' smack?
Needless to mention Robin Uthappa's dream run, who at 613 runs is 121 runs short of surpassing Chris Gayle and Mike Hussey for the most runs in an IPL season. The Karnataka opener has a minimum of two innings and maximum of three to break that record.
Winning seven matches on the trot, KKR will be hoping to extend that run to nine, first seeking a direct flight to Bangalore and not via Mumbai.
With the kind of support staff KKR have, they will do well to forget the league phase and take fresh guard on Tuesday.