Eyeing another IPL title after entering the playoffs, 2012 champions Kolkata Knight Riders are on a roll with a seven-match winning streak and bowling coach Wasim Akram has said that the purple brigade has all the “ammunition” to do it again.
“We are sure looking at the final. Top-four teams in the hunt and it could be anybody’s game. KKR is very confident unit but in T20 it is difficult to predict winners. But Kolkata have got the ammunition to win the title,” said the Sultan of Swing.
The Gautam Gambhir-led side were reeling at the bottom half after four losses early in the tournament but fortunes changed midway and it ended second behind table-toppers Kings XI Punjab after league stage. Akram attributed team’s turnaround to Gambhir’s smart leadership.
“It was a new team. We were trying to figure out the combinations. And here I must give credit to Gautam Gambhir for the kind of captain that he is. He is not defensive captain who tries to stop the runs or save the match. But he is a positive skipper who guns for the wickets and goes for a win,” said Akram.
If opener Robin Uthappa (613 runs in 14 matches) quietly took the orange cap away from Kings XI star Glenn Maxwell (533 runs in 13 matches) then spin ace Sunil Narine (20 wickets) has got the purple cap on his head. Wasim said that the team boasts of many impact players.
“Uthappa and Narine have surely contributed to the teams good showing. I also have to put in a word of praise for Shakib Al Hasan. The Bangladesh all-rounder is a world class player and we are lucky to have such players in the side,” said a beaming Akram.
Going through an extended run of bad form, Yusuf Pathan exploded against Sunrisers Hyderabad with a 22-ball 72 and single-handedly took KKR to the second spot. Akram cannot stop praising the burly hitter from Baroda.
“Yusuf is a game changer. As long as a player like Yusuf is on the field, bowlers and opposition are always on the backfoot. Bowlers and fielders fear him that he will change the course of the game very quickly. And he showed that at Eden,” said Akram.
On being quizzed about KKR giving an extended run to Yusuf despite being a complete dud in the last edition and a large part of this season, Akram said, “It is very difficult to bat at No.5 or 6 in this format. He just needs a little bit of confidence. I kept talking to him consistently. I told him how the psyche of a batsman and a bowler works.”
The Shah Rukh Khan co-owned unit has always been accused of not performing up to the potential with a host of stars at their disposal, but this season has been different and Akram opines that it’s all about teamwork.
“Overall it’s a very good side. Very talented and professional bunch of boys. They are enjoying each other’s presence and enjoying each other’s success. Even a veteran player like Kallis (Jacques) mixes with the younger lot,” said the former Pakistan skipper.
The left-arm pace legend was part of the team’s triumph in 2012 but KKR slipped to the seventh spot among the nine teams when Akram was on a break from his consultancy stint last year. The stalwart though brushed aside the comparison to mere coincidence.
“I think you should ask this question to the players and ask them how my absence last year and now my presence has affected the unit. Cricket is not about individuals but is a team sport. The day you start performing as a unit, you will start winning,” concluded a smiling Akram.