Two consecutive losses have put Kolkata Knight Riders staring at elimination but their assistant coach Simon Katich on Saturday said that his side can pull off a win over table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad in their last league match and qualify for the IPL play-offs. (Fixtures | Squads)
Two-time champions KKR were at the top of the table midway in the season but back-to-back losses towards the business end of the league have suddenly put them in a make-or-break situation in their last game against Sunrisers in Kolkata on Sunday.
“Ultimately we know that if we win, we get through. This is basically like a final. We will be going into tomorrow’s match thinking about how we are going to win this game,” Katich told reporters on the eve of the match on Saturday.
“Having a good run-rate helps and that is due to some good wins this season. I think we will be going into this game not worrying about the result,” Katich said referring to KKR’s good net run rate.
Five teams can finish with 16 points and the net run-rate may determine the final four.
Katich said that his side’s meek surrender to Gujarat Lions in Kanpur does not make KKR a bad team and they can bounce back against the Sunrisers.
“Everyone was disappointed with the result in Kanpur the other night. A loss like that does not mean we are a bad team. The fact is that we have to regroup and start again. That is the nature of this format,” Katich said.
The former Australia batsman said they’re looking forward to the home advantage against Sunrisers.
“We are playing at home and Sunrisers have had a good tournament but we feel confident given how we played against them previously but it does not count for much tomorrow. What has happened in the past is in the past and that will be put aside and we start again fresh tomorrow,” he said.
“It was not long ago that we played beautifully against Rising Pune Supergiants. It is something that you have to deal with in this format of game. You cannot let the disappointment linger too much,” he added.
“It is important to move on and have a positive mindset for next game. If you are worried about what just happened, then it affects you leading into the next game.”
Due to overcast conditions prevailing over last two days under the influence of cyclone, the ground remained under covers and KKR were denied practice.
The opening duo of Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa have failed to fire of late but Katich backed them to come good.
“We feel that they are very good players and good players normally respond to pressure and big match occasion. This is basically like a final and I am sure they would want to go and do as well as they can to get us off to a good start,” Katich said.
“If they don’t, there are other guys in batting line-up who have the opportunity to play well. Our batsmen have been in good form, they had a disappointing game the other night but that does not make them bad players. They just had a bad game. Hopefully they put that aside, come back with a positive mindset and get out there tomorrow and show they’re still in good form.”
Down with a hamstring injury that ruled him out against Gujarat Lions, Russell still remains a doubtful starter in their concluding league fixture on Sunday.
“Andre is getting treatment from our physio and we are unsure about where he is at. He is probably going to miss out if he is not fit enough to play tomorrow given the nature of the injury,” said Katich.
Katich, however, said paceman Umesh Yadav was making good progress.
“He too has been getting regular treatment and he is improving well. We won’t know his availability until tomorrow,” he said.
Back after a remedial action, off-spinner Sunil Narine who had bagged 74 wickets in his first four seasons with KKR and played an instrumental role in their triumphs in 2012 and 2014 too looks lacklustre with eight wickets from nine matches in 2016.
But Katich refused to agree and said, “I would not say he was off colour. It is a big thing to come back from. History says many guys have found it hard to come back after remedial action. The fact that he is back and there have been no question marks on his actions is a big positive.
“You got to remember too that he had a substantial amount of time out of the game. He has had to remodel his action which has taken a fair bit of time with a lot of work. He has been fantastic in the way he has approached it. He has been positive and gone back playing without any pressure. He has bowled in Powerplays and the death whatever Gambhir has asked him to do. To me that is a huge positive,” Katich said.
“It is a big expectation to think that he will do what he did in the past after just stepping back into cricket. He dominated this competition for a number of years and helped KKR to huge team success. Hopefully as each game goes on he gets more and more confidence in his new action. It is a big change for him and he is a huge talent.”
Their spinners may not have lost the sting this time around but Katich blamed it on the wickets and said, “The success of the spinners has been dictated by the wicket. Our spinners are all good and experienced players.”
Katich further said that left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman’s presence in Sunrisers line-up was not a matter of concern for the KKR batting.
“We spent a fair amount of time talking about him in the previous game when we played him in Hyderabad. The way our batsmen approached him nullified his influence on the game,” the assistant coach said.
“Our batsmen, particularly Gautam played beautifully and nullified his damage upfront and at the death. It is something that we have to do tomorrow. They have a strong bowling line-up. Mustafizur has been stand out I agree, but there are a number of good fast bowlers there. They are a well balanced team and that is why they are sitting at the top of the ladder at the moment.”
He showered praise on Sunrisers captain David Warner and said his fellow Australian has got all the qualities of a great captain.
“He has got all the hallmarks to be a fine captain. He does not have that opportunity within Australia at the moment. But this experience here will be doing his captaincy and leadership prospects no harm.”
Warner’s stunning revelation recently that he’s away from alcohol for about a year too was praised by Katich.
“Even his attitude — he is not touching any alcohol for the last 12 months — that itself is strong leadership, setting a great example to the rest of the group,” Katich said.
“He is a very good captain and there is no doubt that he is having a very positive influence on this team. His runs speak for themselves and they are crucial runs because they are at the top of the order and they take a lot of pressure off his teammates,” he said.
“The biggest thing is that he seems to be having a really good working relationship with Tom Moody who is very experienced. That shows when they are on the field, they have found out what their right balance is for their team. He uses his bowlers well and tactically he is a very good thinker of the game.”