Last year the Kolkata Knight Riders were on a roll. They started off with a string of wins and later suffered minor blips that dented their hopes of a playoffs spot. It was towards the second half of the tournament that they slipped and failed to win those crucial matches that could have earned them a spot in the top four. This year too, the situation isn’t very different. They have started well, lost just three out of their nine matches and are at the top of the table at the moment. Though they were in a position of advantage, captain Gautam Gambhir was not willing to get his team’s feet off the pedal.
“I don’t think we should be taking anything lightly because we have realised what happened last year,” Gambhir said on the eve of KKR’s match against Gujarat Lions. “Last year, after the first 12 games everyone thought that we are through but ultimately we couldn’t qualify. We couldn’t win one game out of the last two and we don’t want to go that route. We want to play as a professional unit and as a champion unit.
“We want to take each and every game as it comes and try and first qualify for the playoffs and then see where we finish. Tomorrow is an important game. Obviously Gujarat Lions is number 2 on the table. If we can win the game tomorrow it will increase the gap as well. We have taken a lot of learning from what has happened last year and hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes.”
Also, KKR are coming off a lot of away games. They haven’t played much at home and the batsmen have been urged to modify their game according to different conditions. Gambhir applauded his batsmen for the way they have adjusted to different conditions and different pitches. “We are coming into this game after playing in different kinds of pitches right from Bengaluru, Delhi to Mumbai. Our last game was in Bengaluru and it was coming on nicely on to the bat which was a very high scoring game. Coming to Eden Gardens, you have to get used to the pace of the wicket and we have not practiced after coming from Bengaluru. The way the entire batting line-up adjusted, it has to be given a lot of credit. 164 in our previous game here in Eden was a very good total on this wicket especially after playing in Bengaluru. That is what professional players do, they get adjusted to the wicket as soon as possible and that is how it helps the team as well.”
Talking about the bowling, while the pacers in Morne Morkel and Andre Russell have done a good job picking up wickets at the top and at the death, the spinners have gone for a few runs. Sunil Narine was replaced by Brad Hogg in the previous game who went for aplenty against the Kings XI Punjab. Narine too didn’t have the best of outings against the Royal Challengers Bangalore going for close to 11 runs per over. Gambhir though backed the mystery duo and trusted his entire bowling unit to come good.
“I thought Sunil bowled pretty well in Bengaluru. We all knew it is going to be a difficult ground for any bowler to bowl and the way he handled himself was brilliant. To go for 10 runs per over on that wicket and on that ground is pretty par and good. We have seen that bowlers have gone for 15 runs per over as well. And as far as Hogg is concerned, it was just one of those off days when Glenn Maxwell took him on and we all know how Hogg can be. He is always an attacking bowler and a wicket-taking bowler. There would be situations where he will go for runs but he is always someone who ends up taking wickets and that is what we want. We have got bowlers who can take wickets at any point of time. That is the biggest plus point we have got. That is how we try and control the game as well. Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine all are attacking bowlers. They are not defensive bowlers. There could be days where they will get hammered and go for more than 10 runs per over but most of the times they look to take wickets.”