The equation read 43 off 17 balls when an uncapped batsman walks in to play his fifth IPL innings. One of the best death bowlers in the world will take charge of the next over. His previous six balls produced two wickets and only one run. How do you think the game ends?
With the batting team winning, of course. K Gowtham smashed an unbeaten 33 off 11 balls, helped swindle 18 runs off Jasprit Bumrah’s final set alongside the other match-winner Jofra Archer, and capped it all off with the six that won the game.
The 29-year old allrounder from Karnataka is rather known for his big hitting. Prior to Sunday night’s madness, he had a T20 strike-rate of 157, compiled over the course of 26 innings, and a career-best score of 60, in 29 balls, batting at No. 3.
Gowtham was told to “believe” by his captain Ajinkya Rahane as he left the dugout. And believe he did. So much that he walloped the third ball he faced, from Mustafizur Rahman, another specialist death bowler with inscrutable slower balls, into the stands past long-on. Then he cut Bumrah to the point boundary with such viciousness that his partner Archer abandoned all thoughts of running between the wickets and started skipping about in delight.
Finally, he took on Hardik Pandya and played perhaps the shot of his innings: a perfectly executed slice over the heads of point and short third man off the second ball of the 20th over. The composure he showed in that moment, to merely react to what was coming and not blindly slog because the game was going down the wire, was impressive.
When asked about that moment by the host broadcaster, Gowtham said: “I expected him to go for a yorker because the last ball he bowled was a bouncer. So I expected a wide yorker [and] as he had those fielders [at point and third man] in, I thought, let me wait for it and I just played the shot. That’s about it.
“We do practice all this stuff. When you’re batting No. 7 or 8, you’re expected to get these kinds of deliveries and I’ve done this kind of practice much before the tournament and yesterday as well. So yes, I’d practiced and premeditated it would be a yorker. But it wasn’t a yorker, it was a length ball, I might have gone straight.”
But what was the secret to his taking down a rampaging Bumrah? “I have played him before in one of the tournaments which we play back home; we play Vijaya Bank tournament so I have played him at that time. But he was not Bumrah then. Now he is something different.
“All our support staff, my captain, my players, everyone just told me believe in yourself, believe in your ability. I had not done justice with the bat and I hope this is just the beginning.”