De Villiers hails city lads Abdulla and Kulkarni, who starred for their respective teams in Qualifier 1 between RCB & Gujarat Lions
Bangalore: The game itself may have been between teams from Gujarat and Bangalore but a serious battle was fought by two Mumbaikars, one on each side.
Gujarat Lions' pacer Dhawal Kulkarni celebrates the wicket of Royal Challengers Bangalore opener Chris Gayle in Bangalore on Tuesday
The protagonists were Iqbal Abdulla for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Dhawal Kulkarni for Gujarat Lions, both typical Mumbai cricketers, their immense self-confidence very much apparent, something that is a natural by-product of playing in the maidans.
Normally Abdulla wouldn't have played the game, for RCB usually play only one spinner at the Chinnaswamy Stadium but on Tuesday, their think tank obviously saw something in the pitch, enough to include the left-arm spinner along with their number one spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
To boot, skipper Virat Kohli brought him on in the second over itself, a decision more than justified when the left-arm spinner from Mumbai sent the Gujarat Lions openers Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch packing in the space of four balls.
If you can take two, I can pick four seemed to be Kulkarni's credo as he used the new ball to maximum effect, prising out the likes of Kohli, Chris Gayle, KL Rahul and Sachin Baby in quick time.
But it was to be Abdulla's night. Kulkarni had contributed a four-ball 10 to boost his side's total but it was to be nothing compared with Abdulla's match-winning 33 not out.
RCB's Iqbal Abdulla during his unbeaten 25-ball 33 in Bangalore on Tuesday. The spinner also bagged two Gujarat Lions wickets. Pics/PTI
As AB de Villiers was to note later, RCB were well aware that this lad could bat and with two left-arm spinners in operation, Abdulla's promotion ahead of Chris Jordan, was a well thought out move.
No wonder his more accomplished partner was unrestrained in his praise. Speaking of the special 91-run, seventh wicket partnership, De Villiers said: "To be very honest, I thought I'd have to say a lot to him (Abdulla) but he was probably calmer than me. When he walked up, you could see that he has done this before. He had a calm head on his shoulders and straightaway understood what I was trying to tell him. I didn't have to talk to him after that. A lot of credit should go to him... fantastic partnership."
De Villiers gave Kulkarni due credit too. "It was a funny kind of wicket. I thought anything more than 160 and we'd be in trouble. It didn't seem like a wicket where you can just go and score. I always felt we needed a foundation in the first six but we didn't get that. Kulkarni bowled that fantastic spell, a lot of credit should go to him. He basically had the game in the pocket but like Zaheer Khan always tells me, it's a funny old game and you're never out of it."
That's something cricketers in the rest of India say about their Mumbai counterparts. "They just don't give up."