Mumbai: Gujarat Lions pacer Dhawal Kulkarni heaped praise on opener Aaron Finch saying he showed great character and played one of the best innings to guide them to a three-wicket win over Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
Asked about the small hamstring problem faced by Finch, Kulkarni said, "We (the team) just hoped he continued playing and thats what he did, he showed great character and helped us win the game and he (Finch) is ok now."
In-form Australian opener Finch (67 not out) battled a hamstring injury to single-handedly take Gujarat Lions to a last-ball win over defending champions Mumbai Indians in a thrilling IPL match.
"Ya he (Finch) played throughout and one of the best innings I have ever witnessed and he helped us win, batted from the start and made sure we end up on the other side..
winning...," the 27-year-old pacer told reporters at the post-match conference.
Kulkarni, who also hit a four in the last over, said, "My game plan was to just give him (Aaron Finch) strike, but anything pitched up I had to slog and luckily (Jasprit) Bumrah bowled a half volley and I could hit a boundary."
On his bowling performance, the Mumbaikar said, "I had performances like these before also, but I wouldn't rate this as good as I have had in the past.
It was my first game for Gujarat Lions, a proud moment for me and playing at the home ground its a special feeling always, I want to play here, want to do well on my home-ground."
Kulkarni played against his Mumbai team-mate Rohit Sharma and picked up his wicket.
When asked if there was any battle between the two when playing for opposite sides, the right-arm pacer quipped, "I feel I am always there for that battle, when you see your team-mate face you, its gives me that extra energy to bowl at him and he is such a great player and to take his wicket, it was great moment for me.
"I have always looked up to him and he has always helped me in the dressing room, so on the field we were playing against each other so there was no friendship we just wanted to go against each other," he added.
On his side giving away few runs in the last few overs, Kulkarni said, "No nothing went wrong, it happens in this format, you tend to start well and later on batsman tend to slog so we bowled well actually, just in patches there were quite many loose balls."
Kulkarni heaped praise on his skipper Suresh Raina, describing him as a "flexible captain" and a "matured cricketer".
"He (Raina) is very good and a matured cricketer and has a lot of experience, he is leading pretty well at the moment and is doing a lot of good changes on and off the field and he very much supports the bowlers.
Its not that he makes his own plans, he is pretty flexible as a captain," said Kulkarni, who last played for India in an ODI at Harare against Zimbabwe in July last year.
According to Kulkarni, the Gujarat Lions squad has gelled well and the camp had helped the players.
"I felt the team has gelled pretty well, we had a camp for a week or so before the IPL, so guys had a chance to get to know each other, that's how we gelled well and I see a lot of unity in the team and winning the first game was important for us and that's what we did the rest followed," he said.
"Later on there was quite a bit of dew, so the ball was skidding on to the bat, initially with the new ball there was help in the wicket, so you had to just stick to your line and length," he added.
Asked how difficult is to get into the squad, Kulkarni said, "You have to keep bowling well in the nets, if you want to get into the eleven, there are so many international players sharing the dressing room and there is a lot of experience in them to make a place in the 11, you have to really work hard in the nets, you have to keep bowling hard, keep working on your fitness and that's how you get into the 11."