Gautam Gambhir feels Team Kolkata's qualification for the IPL 5 final has vindicated his faith in the "core group of players" he has persisted with throughout the tournament.

Kolkata turned the tables on favourites Delhi to post an 18-run win in the qualifier at the Subrata Roy Sahara stadium.

The team's total of 162 for four was built around the captain's aggressive 32 at the top which complemented composed knocks from Brendon McCullum (31) and Jacques Kallis (30) in the middle and a rollicking 56-run partnership by Yusuf Pathan (40 no) and Laxmi Ratan Shukla (24 no).

Citing the example of Pathan and Shukla, Gambhir said his players deserved the trust and opportunities he gave them, and they repaid the debt at the most appropriate time.

"I said after we lost to Chennai at home and I say it now that we have a core group of players and I wanted to give them faith and confidence so that they could stand up to these kind of situations," Gambhir said.

"People asked me why I am sticking with Yusuf Pathan and I always said that it was a matter of time (before he strikes form), and he has done that. I didn't want to keep chopping and changing. Whoever is there in the dressing room, is there because he has my faith and I back him completely."

Going into the match, Pathan had averaged just 17 with 153 runs in the season. On Tuesday, his savage knock, in tandem with Shukla's equally aggressive innings, gave the team the late flourish that pushed the total from what could have been a competitive 150, to a challenging one.

"It's a matter of handling pressure. Like Pathan today, Manoj Tiwary played his part against Mumbai. Shukla comes up with his batting and Rajat Bhatia with his medium pacers at a good economy rate. It is small contributions like these that matter, not one big knock," Gambhir said on Tuesday.

The captain himself led from the front with a 16-ball scorcher that set the tone for the match. But Gambhir downplayed the significance of his knock.

"Who do I have to prove to? No one. The only people who I have to prove anything to are sitting in my dressing room. If my colleagues believe that I have done an honest job and given my best, that's enough for me," he said.

Kolkata are now the title favourites. Gambhir said he wasn't surprised. "I said at the start of the tournament that if we play to our potential we would be the team beat. I say now, we are the team to beat."

Gautam Gambhir more stills

Keywords:Gautam Gambhir, Team Kolkata, IPL, Subrata Roy Sahara stadium, Brendon McCullum , Jacques Kallis , Yusuf Pathan , Laxmi Ratan Shukla,Pathan ,Shukla, Gambhir ,Chennai ,Manoj Tiwary , Rajat Bhatia ,cricket news,sports news