Last season’s early elimination still fresh in his mind, Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir on Saturday said his team would not take anything for granted as it prepares to clash against a wounded Gujarat Lions in their IPL match in Kolkata.
KKR are currently sitting on the top of the table with 12 points but Gambhir recalled that they were in a similar position last season also when they were leading the table but two reverses in the last two matches meant they failed to make the playoffs.
“I don’t think we should be taking anything lightly because we have realised what happened last year. After the first 12 games everyone thought we were through but ultimately we were the only side which couldn’t qualify,” Gambhir recalled.
“We couldn’t win one game 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,” he said on the eve of their match.
Gujarat Lions are placed at number two in the table and Gambhir feels that Sunday’s win against them would help his team increase the margin of points.
“If we can win the game tomorrow it will increase the gap and we will have one game in hand. We have learnt a lot from what happened last year and hopefully we don’t make the same mistakes,” said the captain.
At a time when other teams are struggling with their opening combination, Gambhir’s partnership with Robin Uthappa at the top has been good.
“It is difficult to say what has clicked. The important thing is both need to score and that is what makes a good combination. One person cannot just keep scoring runs and it becomes a successful opening pair. Ultimately your job is to go out there and score runs. We both have been doing that and that is why we have stuck together for a long time.
“Why people have changed their opening pair is because they have not clicked together or not been scoring runs. It is not about how the openers are doing, it is about how individually you are performing as well. Once you both start performing that is what makes a good combination. Not one person makes a good combination. That could be the reason why we have been opening for a very long time,” explained Gambhir.
With a reformed action, Sunil Narine may be a shadow of of his former self as the Trinidad offspinner conceded 45 runs against Royal Challengers Bangalore, while Aussie veteran Brad Hogg, too, has been expensive but Gambhir has backed both, saying they are wicket taking bowlers.
“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 as well,” he said.
“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. That is the biggest plus point we have got. We have got bowlers who can take wickets at any point of time. That’s how we try and control the game as well.
“Piyush Chawla, Narine all are attacking bowlers. They are not defensive bowlers. There could be days when they will get hammered and go for more than 10 runs per over but most of the times they look to take wickets,” Gambhir added.
Nursing a finger injury, Narine missed their last match, against Kings XI Punjab and Gambhir said they would assess the offspinner’s fitness.
Having won four out of their six successive away matches in three weeks, KKR have adjusted to the different kind of surfaces on offer and Gambhir was all praise for the team.
“I think when you have played in Wankhede, Hyderabad and Delhi where it was a good wicket, it was coming on nicely on to the bat, and coming from Bengaluru 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. Once we were playing in Bengaluru obviously we were looking to get 180-190 and that was a par score in that kind of wicket.
“May be 160 was a good score on this wicket so we had to get used to this as well. The way the entire batting line-up adjusted has to be given a lot of credit. 165 was a very good total on this wicket especially playing in Bengaluru and playing here. 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.”
On close finishes, Gambhir said: “I don’t think teams achieve anything and I don’t think any team would want a close finish. We would be very happy if there are not many close finishes. There is far more stress and we have seen the closer the game gets, people need to handle their nerves better. As a player you would be happy if you can win the game convincingly as that is how you start dominating the tournament as well.
“The more close finishes, you start doubting and criticising certain things that we should have bowled well or got 15 or 20 runs more. Close finishes doesn’t teach anything, except that we can start winning convincingly and start dominating other teams as well. That is what gives you more confidence rather than the close finishes.”
Asked about Mark Boucher’s appointment as wicketkeeping consultant, he said the South African will help the team, especially when they have two part time wicketkeepers in Uthappa and Sheldon Jackson.
“I thought we have got two part time wicket-keepers and if someone can work alongwith them going forward in this tournament, especially with us playing a couple of home games now on this wicket where it will start turning, it is going to be difficult to keep if Narine and Hogg are playing together.
“If someone with that experience can help two part-time wicket-keepers and learn a bit more about handling spin bowling, it will always be useful.”
Eden is yet to be fullhouse despite the team doing well and Gambhir hoped it would be packed in the upcoming games.
“I hope we get better crowd because we have been playing good cricket and we are at the top of the table. That is what you want. Eden Gardens has its charm when the ground is absolutely packed. Maybe the crowds haven’t come because we haven’t played for a very long time. We were on the road for a long time so that could be one reason, hope there would be more crowd tomorrow and going forward in the tournament.
“It is always fun when the ground is packed because that is what is one of the best sights in world cricket when Eden is absolutely packed,” Gambhir signed off.