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KKR wicketkeeper-batsman praises skipper for bringing the best out of his team
By Hoshedar N. Gundevia
Pune 23 May 2012
Striving for excellence is a trait common to all IPL teams. Although the Kolkata Knight Ridershave underachieved in the past four seasons of the IPL, their days playing second fiddle are over. The IPL 2012 final will see the Knight Riders take the field at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium, since the Gautam Gambhir-led side defeated the high-flyingDelhi Daredevilsin the first qualifier.
KKR ace Brendon McCullumhas had his fair share of positive moments in the past, but the Kiwi is now excited about KKR’s potential after they qualified for their first ever IPL final. The journey to getting a shot at glory has been arduous for KKR. However, McCullum believes that the team has evolved under Gambhir’s captaincy and will continue to do so in the future. With the main event awaiting KKR on May 27, McCullum is confident of putting on a show worthy of a grand finale. Excerpts from an interaction with Brendon McCullum after KKR’s 18-run win over DD in the first qualifier:
What does it mean for KKR to reach the IPL final for the first time?
It’s great. It’s been a tough last couple of years, and this year, we have been good so far. There is one big game to go, and hopefully, we turn up on the day and play the best cricket we have played right through the season. Do you feel that you got out at the wrong time?
In this game, playing at the top order you try to get from 30 to 50 quite quickly and that’s how you get big scores, by doing so. Good thing is that we have got some depth in our batting and Yusuf Pathan and [Laxmi Ratan] Shukla came in at the right time. You would probably say that it was a good result by me getting out.
Does opening with Gautam Gambhir give you added confidence as a batsman?
He has got his plan incredibly well at the moment. He has been hitting the ball as well as anyone in the tournament. I from the other end try to give him strike that is probably the reverse of the roles what we thought of at the start of the tournament. Can’t take credit of the partnerships where he has played beautifully and made my work easy, and I just try to hang in around and get him on strike.
Are you backing your spinners to shine on the Chennai track?
It is also known to be reasonable pace wicket at times; we just have to wait to see what we get. We have got balance in our squad on both fast and spinning wickets. We have got good luxury there and owners have done well to pick up the right balance in the team. We are going to go in there with a bit of momentum and a bit of confidence. We have to play extremely well to lift the cup.
Does it matter who you face in the final?
This time I have seen, all teams can beat any team on a given day and the teams in the finals [playoffs] right now have got match-winners and well-balanced line-ups. Regardless who it is, we will have to play extremely well. No preference, we know that we will have to play our best game. Has Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy impressed you?
I think he is an outstanding leader. He is very softspoken in the changing room and around the group and on the field he leads through performance and through actions. Technically, he has been very good and has used Sunil Narine incredibly well and he has got a lot out of the other guys as well. He has been excellent as a captain so far.
How has the franchise evolved over the years?
The franchise is maturing a little bit and we have got some players who have matured over the last few years. Indian guys have really come on in the last few years and are playing some key roles for us. I think that’s probably why we are right at the moment and that’s why we are seeing the results.
How has the support staff helped the team in reaching the final?
Rudy [Webster] often thinks in his own way and some guys utilize it more than others. We have got Wasim Akram; and Trevor Bayliss has been outstanding as a coach. We have got some experienced international players, which gives us a nice balance and nice calm presence right throughout the dressing room.
How difficult has it been for you to keep wicket this season?
It’s been a completely different role behind the stumps than what I am used to back home. I completely enjoy this as I am always in the game. And we have got some spinners and I was a bit lucky with the stumping today. It’s one of those wickets [Pune], which I find really tough to keep on as it is bit two-paced and it keeps low. Just try to grab the opportunities I get and make a contribution with the gloves.
While speaking to iplt20.com Jayawardene reflected on the tactical errors that contributed to the loss against KKR.
Excerpts from his post-match interview:
Do you think Yusuf Pathan’s 40* later in the innings cost DD the match?
Not just that, I think there were quite a few other things as well [that cost us the match]. I don’t think we played a perfect game today. We made a few too many mistakes. When you are playing a T20 game against a quality opposition, it is tough to come back into the game. But yes, that partnership [between Yusuf Pathan and LR Shukla] probably took maybe 15-20 runs away from us at the end and 160 [odd] was always going to be a challenging score to chase. We were close, but not good enough. What are the areas that you will look to improve upon?
We have had a very good season and we kept improving. Yes, we had a bad day to day but that doesn’t mean we play bad cricket. We kept playing good cricket, so we just need to fine-tune certain areas, which we think we have to […]. That’s what we have been doing throughout the season and would continue to do that. What was the reason for playing only one spinner on a track that probably suited spin bowling more?
Yes [we played only one spinner]. But we controlled things much better in the [first] 15 overs, which we bowled. That has been our strength. The wicket wasn’t too slow [or] too spinner friendly. Yes, it was [helping spin] a little bit, but when we were chasing, we saw it wasn’t too bad [to play on or] too hard to play the spinners. We lost a couple of wickets up front but still we were in the game till the 15th over. I thought and that’s where probably the game shifted at the end. So, anything could have happened, but we stuck to our strength rather than doing too many changes. What was the strategy behind changing the batting order and promoting Pawan Negi above Ross Taylor?
We were thinking [of playing] the left-handers we had with the left-arm spinners they had and try and use that. But probably it was bit too late [in the innings to do that]. Probably, we should have sent the left-hander much earlier than [we did]. Maybe [we should’ve sent him] in place of Venu [Venugopal Rao] so that Ross also could have had a bit more overs to bat. But like I said, on the field, we made a few mistakes, probably tactically we made a few mistakes as well, but we will learn from that. What would be the strategy for the next match, which will be against either CSK or MI – both of whom can’t be taken lightly?
Yes, true. Let them play tomorrow, see who we have to play next and then try and sit down and have a good solid game plan against them. [...] We can’t make any plans now, but it’s probably a good thing that we finished in the top two, so we get another crack at it [reaching the final].