Kohli chants 'give me passion to play well': Naveen-ul-Haq

Naveen-ul-Haq jumps for joy after sending back Rohit Sharma. Photo: PTI/R Senthil Kumar

Chennai: Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq has responded that he finds enjoyment in the crowd's chants as they fuel his passion to perform exceptionally for his team.

On May 1, Naveen and Virat Kohli were involved in an ugly verbal duel during LSG's match against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Lucknow. Following the incident, the Afghan pacer has resorted to making several sarcastic remarks about the RCB star and former India skipper on his social media platforms. However, this behaviour has not been appreciated by a section of Kohli's fans.

In the Eliminator against Mumbai Indians (MI) at the M A Chidambaram Stadium on Wednesday night, the crowd persistently taunted Naveen as he prepared to bowl. However, he responded by silencing the chants with 'shut out the noise' celebrations when he dismissed MI captain Rohit Sharma.

"I enjoy it. I like that everybody in the ground is chanting his (Kohli's) name or any other player's name. It gives me passion to play well for my team," Naveen said in the post-match press conference.

"I don't concentrate on the outside noise. I just focus on my own cricket. It's not like if the crowd is chanting or anyone is saying something... it doesn't affect me. As professional sportsmen you have to take it in your stride," he said.

"One day you will not do your best for the team and these fans are going to give it to you. On another day, you'll do a special thing for your team and the same people are going to chant your name," he added.

Naveen led LSG's bowling attack against MI with the figures of (4/38), taking wickets at regular intervals and keeping the five-time champions to a total of 182/8. However, the LSG batters could not chase the total down, with the team getting all out for 101 in the 17th over.

While LSG's batters put up a disappointing performance, Naveen maintained his belief that the target set by MI was within reach.

"It was an achievable target. The wicket was playing quite well. In between, we couldn't handle the pressure, to be honest. We gave away three to four wickets in quick succession. That was the turning point in the game."

Naveen had plenty of variations for the MI batters.

Speaking about his bowling variations, he said: "You assess the conditions, what they offer. I think the pitch was offering a bit of help. It wasn't like we were bowling 3-4 slower ones in an over but just to keep the batters guessing, you have to vary your pace and vary your line and length. It comes with T20, it's a fast format and you have to adjust quickly and be a step ahead of the batters."

Naveen ended his campaign with 11 wickets in eight matches at an economy rate of 7.82.

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