Playing just his first match for Mumbai Indians, Dhawal Kulkarni showed what an asset he could be for his side. The seam bowler played a key role in restricting Royal Challengers Bangalore to 136, which were 58 short of the mammoth 194 posted by Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
Kulkarni thrived on the start given by Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga when they strangled Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first five overs. He kept them under the pump, getting three of their top four batsmen - Dilshan, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
The 24-year-old was clearly ecstatic as he grabbed the opportunity presented to him with both hands. "I feel this is one of my best performances in the IPL. To get my first game this year and come out with a performance like this feels special. This was the opportunity that I got after a long time and I wanted to cash in on that," Kulkarni told IPLT20.com on Saturday.
"We knew we had to target the big three in the RCB set up. Getting Gayle early was definitely crucial, but we had to get AB [de Villiers], Dilshan and Kohli as well, because they had the ability to chase totals. Once we had their wickets, we knew it was our game from there," he added.
Kulkarni said it was frustrating to sit in the dug out and wait for your chance. "It does not feel great to sit in the dugout, because you always want to go and perform for the team," he said. "I was working hard in the nets and working vigorously on my fitness over the past few weeks. I was waiting for this opportunity and I had the belief in myself that I would bowl well when I got the chance. It is great to end up on the winning side after bowling your heart out in the match. I do not want to stop here; I want to help my team win in the fixtures to come."
He also commended the way Johnson and Malinga bowled at the start of the innings, saying it's extremely hard to restrict the players like Gayle and Dilshan but they did a terrific job. "Mitchell Johnson and Lasith Malinga are wicket taking bowlers and have always been good with the new ball. Both the RCB batsmen were aggressive at the start against them and finding it difficult to get runs against them, something that helped us restrict them in the first five overs," he added.
Kulkarni said the experience that he got playing alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting is huge. "Sachin and Ponting share a lot of experiences at the nets with me. Sachin has always been there for me when I have needed him. Even in domestic cricket, he was there to help me out in various aspects of my bowling. Getting to share the dressing room and talk about the game with such legends is a big thing for me."