Sharjah: Kings XI Punjab opener Mandeep Singh, who is grieving the recent death of his father, said he is glad to have fulfilled one of his wishes in the ongoing IPL - remaining unbeaten while steering the side to a win.
The 28-year-old scored 66 off 56 balls and partnered the explosive Chris Gayle in a 100-run stand that helped KXIP chase down 150 against Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday.
"My father used to tell me that 'you should remain not out in every game' and that is what I wanted to do today," Mandeep told the IPL's official website.
"Even before the game, I spoke to Rahul that 'let me play my game, even if I take a few balls I can win games for the team'. I think my father would be really happy that I finished the game," he said.
Mandeep's father, Hardev Singh, died on Friday after battling a liver ailment at a Mohali hospital. The cricketer was lauded by no less than Sachin Tendulkar for playing on despite the tragedy.
Gayle and Mandeep ensured that KXIP jumped to the fourth spot by registering their fifth win on the trot.
"Chris (Gayle) makes the game so easy and I told him that you should never retire. I've never seen him struggle, and he's probably the greatest T20 player ever," Mandeep said.
Gayle was adjudged man-of-the-match for his whirlwind knock, his second fifty in five matches.
"Like I said, he should never retire, he's always in great touch. I've been lucky that I've played with the likes of Chris Gayle, AB (de Villiers), (Adam) Gilchrist, Virat Kohli...
"I started with Chris Gayle in KKR in 2010. I've been very fortunate to know him as a friend. He's so humble, down-to-earth," Mandeep said.
Mandeep has shown exceptional mental toughness by staying back in the UAE despite losing his father and was given the responsibility of opening the innings in the absence of an injured Mayank Agarwal.
He made a quick 17 against Sunrisers Hyderabad but on Monday he stayed till the end to take the team through.
"I opened in the last game as well, they wanted me to have a go in the first six overs," Mandeep said.
"I told (skipper) KL Rahul that let me play my game, even if I take a few balls, I know I have the belief that I can win games for the team. That's what I did.
"I took some balls initially, but even in the middle overs, I was thinking that if I bat till the end I will win this game for the team," he said.
KXIP, who had earlier lost five in a row, scripted a brilliant comeback and will face Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings in their remaining two games.
Mandeep said KXIP were a bit unlucky initially but they always had the self-belief. "We were a bit unlucky as well initially, but we were playing some good cricket from the start but we need to finish games, whether in batting or bowling," he said.
"It's just the self-belief that we showed in the last few games, that no matter what we have to keep fighting in every game. I think that's about it. Now a bit of luck is also favouring us and we are really happy."
Mandeep also showered praise on young leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who initially turned it around for KXIP with the prized-scalp of KKR skipper Eoin Morgan.
Morgan was looking in ominous form with a 25-ball 40 in an entertaining partnership with Shubman Gill (57) but his departure dented their progress.
"He (Bishnoi) has a big heart. And I remember when I came to the IPL first time in 2010, I was very nervous and couldn't even talk to senior players. He's just playing as if he's playing his fifth IPL. The loss took KKR out of the top-four but opener Gill said they have it in them to qualify," he said.
"I think we still have two more matches to go and we are pretty confident that we will be able to qualify for the playoffs."
KKR opener Gill said Morgan's wicket was the game-changer.
"It was not just our day. Our batsmen got out early to some good balls. I think in the middle overs, we were still going well with 92/3 but after Morgan's wicket, we just lost momentum," he said.
"I think we were 15 to 20 runs short. In the middle overs, we're not able to rotate the strike, if we were able to do that we would have got 20-25 runs more than this wicket."
KKR will play CSK on Thursday before their final league match against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday.
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Electing to bat, Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara shared 61 runs after the fall of Mayank Agarwal (13) early. India lost three wickets in the afternoon session before debutant Iyer and Jadeja added an unfinished 113 runs to take India across the 250-mark.
Gill, who scored 52, looked in good touch before Jamieson got one to curl back in and it bowled the India opener lock, stock and barrel during the post-lunch session
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