Simon Katich, the assistant coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders, is confident that emotion will not play a factor when Kolkata line up against Gautam Gambhir’s Delhi Daredevils on Monday (April 16) at Eden Gardens.
Gambhir, who returned to the Delhi franchise after seven years, oversaw the rise of Kolkata as a dominant outfit with the likes of Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav all gaining prominence. While the Australian conceded that it will be emotional going against Gambhir, who led Kolkata to two Indian Premier League titles, the home side will be more focused on getting a win.
“If you start playing the man rather than the ball, you know you’re in trouble in this game. There will be emotion involved from Gautam’s point of view because he had a fantastic time here as captain and was very successful and we know he’ll be up for the challenge just as three of the Sunrisers boys were up for it last night,” said Katich, referring to former Kolkata players in Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib al Hasan, while speaking to reporters on Sunday.
Aside from worrying about facing their former captain, Kolkata have a host of other issues including a weakened fast bowling attack and sloppy fielding. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, both the batting and the bowling units clicked but against Chennai Super Kings they were blown away by a brilliant innings from Sam Billings, and then ran into the formidable bowling attack of Sunrisers Hyderabad. For Katich, the ideology moving forward will focus more on the process, rather than the result.
“We feel like in the first three games potentially we could have won all three. We haven’t done that so I think the focus now is more on the process rather than the actual result because in the last couple of games, they haven’t gone according to plan. Last night we were probably 20-25 runs short with the bat. That put pressure on our bowlers but especially our spinners were brilliant. It’s not about the talent or who we’ve got, it’s about being able to apply those skills at the right times.”
He also defended the likes of Nitish Rana, Uthappa and even Dinesh Karthik, the Kolkata captain, who have all gotten good starts but have failed to build a foundation.
Katich also dismissed suggestions that the team was reliant on Narine at the top of the order and Andre Russell at the bottom of the order.
“The only concern is they haven’t kicked on and made the most of their starts so from that point of view, it would be more of a concern if they were getting out for less than 10 and scratching around for their runs. It’s making sure we stay in partnerships longer and take the innings deeper, we did that very well against Chennai. Unfortunately we didn’t back that up in the field, we were sloppy in the field.”
Despite an injury ruling out Kamlesh Nagarkoti out of the IPL, Kolkata still have three players from India’s victorious Under-19 campaign in New Zealand including Shivam Mavi and Shubman Gill, who was the player of the tournament. But Katich warned those eager to see the young stars get a look in that it might take some time for them to get used to playing on the IPL stage.
“They could easily be sitting on the bench, given the amount of experience we have got in the team. As a young player, there’s times where you’re finding your feet at a higher level, you don’t always get to bat in the position that you’re used to but that’s all part of a journey of adapting as a batsman.
“We’re not expecting them to go out there and play an innings like Andre Russell did in Chennai, it’s about giving them an opportunity to see what it’s like out there, hopefully the senior guys take a little bit of pressure off them in terms of the way they set the innings up, particularly in Shubman’s case.”
Commenting on the addition of Abhishek Nayar, the Mumbai batsman, to the Kolkata backroom staff, Katich compliment the work Nayar did in resurrecting Karthik’s career and attitude which saw the Tamil Nadu keeper return to the India side. Katich was also extremely complimentary of Karthik’s captaincy and despite the results, backed him to make a captain’s knock soon enough.
“We have a lot of youngsters so he’s spending a lot of time, chatting and discussing things with a lot of the young players,” he said. “The effort’s there but now it’s about taking it further, particularly with the bat but his keeping’s been excellent and he has a positive effect around the group in terms of spending time with players and saying what’s expected of them.”