It is always good to start any tournament with a win and this is a special win for us personally because our fans have been so loyal to us and they waited for this opportunity." - Dwayne Bravo. © BCCI

It is always good to start any tournament with a win and this is a special win for us personally because our fans have been so loyal to us and they waited for this opportunity.” – Dwayne Bravo. © BCCI

Dwayne Bravo has not played international cricket since the series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in September 2016. It was also the last time he had scored a half-century before breaking a drought of 33 innings on the inaugural night of the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday (April 7).

After his 30-ball 68 helped Chennai Super Kings mark their return to the league after two years of suspension with a come from behind one-wicket win over Mumbai Indians, the defending champions, Bravo dedicated the result to the loyal fan base of the franchise.

“It was just my day. I will take that,” Bravo said. “It is always good to start any tournament with a win and this is a special win for us personally because our fans have been so loyal to us and they waited for this opportunity and people in Chennai and throughout India as well, our CSK fans and our captain MS (Dhoni).”

Chasing 166, Chennai were 75 for 5 when Bravo, who had missed the last IPL because of an injury, walked in to bat at the start of the 13th over. He soon lost Kedar Jadhav to a hamstring injury, and another collapse reduced Chennai to 118 for 8. With 48 needed off 21 balls, it was all on Bravo with only Imran Tahir for company even as an injured Jadhav waited in the dugout.

Bravo had no other option but to go for his shots, and it paid off as the 18th and 19th overs bowled by Mitchell McClenaghan and Jasprit Bumrah went for a total of 40 runs. Bravo fell off the last ball of the penultimate over, but a hopping Jadhav returned to sweep Mustafizur Rahman over fine-leg for six and then hit a four through cover to take Chennai to their first-ever one-wicket win with just a ball to spare.

“(While batting) I wasn’t thinking much actually, I was just trying my best to bat till the last over. I thought that if I bat deep and till the end, we have a good chance of winning the game because Wankhede is a ground where if you miss your length and yorkers, the ball can travel,” Bravo explained. “So you mistime a few, a few edges go your way and the bowling team is always under pressure because margin for error is so small in this format, your miss your yorker by an inch, it can go for six as you can see tonight.

“I just wanted to stay still, keep my eyes on the ball, have a good swing. Here at Wankhede the ball travels every time you miss the length. Just get a good contact and the ball will go,” he elaborated. “Those two overs, we needed 15 an over. So, at some point, I had to take a chance and it worked off. Anytime you hit a boundary, whether it is a six or a four, automatically the bowler is under pressure. I know how you feel as a bowler when your first ball goes for a boundary. No matter how good a bowler you are, in these tense moments if you are put under pressure, you tend to fumble.

“Again, I was hitting the ball nicely in the nets. I had the confidence and the belief that I can win the game despite losing wickets. I can bat deep,” he went on. “Can’t forget Jadhav, who came back and showed a lot of fight and a lot of guts. To hit that six is a special, special moment. From thereon, we had the game.”

Bravo said that he was in such a zone that he did not raise his bat when he reached his half-century because he “knew the job wasn’t finished, there was still a long way to go.”

“I was in a zone. I was just focussing on trying to get the game done for my team. I was disappointed that I was out in the last over. But I played the innings that put my team in a position to win,” he added. “I am just happy that I was able to contribute with the bat. It has been a while that I haven’t been able to make runs with the bat. This one will always be special to me.”

At the post-match presentation ceremony, Dhoni conceded that he had given up hope before Bravo’s heroics and was hoping that the margin of defeat for Chennai is as small as possible.

“I am a very practical person. When I was in the dressing room, I was thinking that the quantum of loss should not be too big. If you lose by 40 runs or 35 runs or 50 runs, at the end of the 14 games it equates to winning one more game to get into the knockout stage,” said Dhoni. “The way Bravo batted, it was good to see him take that responsibility. Lots of time when you bat deep, people think that somebody else will do the job, but it was good to see the way he batted.”

Bravo’s impact on the game was not only restricted to his batting. He went for just 12 runs in his last three overs, and finished with figures of 0 for 25 in four. The first bowler with 400 T20 wickets against his name and with a reputation of an excellent death-over bowler, Bravo said that the pressure situations bring the best out of him.

“I think it’s a challenge for me. I mark myself against the best in the world so in moments like this is where it really matters and I don’t enjoy bowling when there’s not much pressure on,” Bravo said. “When there’s pressure I need to focus a lot more and in the nets, I prepare very well when I bowl to guys like MS and Suresh (Raina) and these guys, who are good hitters. Even when I am playing for West Indies, I bowl to (Andre) Russell and (Kieron) Pollard and those guys so it gave me confidence.”