Gurbaz Powers Kolkata into IPL Final

Rahmanullah Gurbaz

AHMEDABAD: Rahmanullah Gurbaz left his hospitalized mother’s bedside in Afghanistan to play a crucial role in Kolkata Knight Riders’ advance to the IPL final in his first appearance this season.

The wicketkeeper-batsman scored a rapid 23 runs, setting the stage for Kolkata’s chase of 160, leading to an eight-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday in Ahmedabad.

At 22, Gurbaz made the tough decision to leave his sick mother to answer the team’s call after Phil Salt left to prepare for England’s T20 World Cup.

“My mum is still sick. I went there (back to Afghanistan),” Gurbaz said to reporters. “I got a call from KKR once Phil Salt was leaving. They called me and messaged me saying, ‘Gurbaz, we need you. What is your situation?’ I said I’ll come.”

Having joined Kolkata ahead of last season, Gurbaz has been a peripheral player. He returned home to be with his mother but came back when his team needed him most.

“My mother is still recovering in the hospital, I speak to her every day,” he said. “But I knew my KKR is also my family. They needed me here, so I came back from Afghanistan. It’s hard, it’s tough, but I have to manage.”

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Gurbaz took two catches as Hyderabad were bowled out for 159, with Mitchell Starc taking 3-34. He then hit a 14-ball knock with two fours and two sixes, setting the pace for Kolkata’s chase in 13.4 overs, securing their fourth IPL final.

“As a cricketer, you know what to do,” he said. “If you do not have an opportunity, you should prepare well and be ready. Whenever you get a chance, you have to be ready.”

Despite limited IPL playtime, Gurbaz has represented Afghanistan in 55 T20s and is set to be a key player at the upcoming World Cup. While most Afghan players are already in the West Indies for the tournament, Gurbaz remains focused on the IPL final, stating his “first priority is KKR.”

The final is on Sunday in Chennai. Hyderabad will have another chance on Friday to reach the final when they face the winner of Wednesday’s match between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

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