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Defending champions, Kolkata Knight Riders have a win and a loss in their bag going into the third match of IPL 2013. KKR’s next challenge is the Royal Challengers Bangalore in their backyard. The hosts are brimming with confidence after their emphatic win at home on Tuesday whereas KKR are smarting from the shock defeat to Rajasthan Royals.
However, skipper Gautam Gambhir believes that one loss in the beginning doesn’t mean much in a long tournament like this. “I don’t believe in momentum, I only believe in playing good cricket,” Gambhir said at the pre-match presser. “There’s still a lot of time left in the tournament and in this format a single individual can take the game away. We don’t discuss stuff like momentum in the team.”
While being patient with his team, Gambhir also showed faith towards some of his individual players who have struggled to put up top-notch performances so far. The players he defended were Yusuf Pathan and Manvinder Bisla.
“It’s been only two games and at KKR we don’t change things quickly,” Gambhir shot back when asked if Bisla’s scores of 4 and 1 opening the innings were a cause of worry. “We believe in giving players a longer rope and that’s how it will be. It’s not what people say about a player, the important thing is that we back the player and the player backs himself. And we have full faith in Bisla,” the skipper said.
For the hard-hitting Pathan, Gambhir maintained his stance he’s held since the last season. “Yusuf Pathan is a match-winner and I’ve always maintained that. I have a lot of belief in him and he has belief in his abilities. He is going to do something special for us in this tournament,” Gambhir said. While Gambhir refused to dwell into the discussion of the playing XI for Thursday’s match, he hinted that Lakshmipathy Balaji might replace Mohammad Shami. Balaji returned 1 for 20 in four overs in the first game while Shami was carted for 26 runs in 3 overs by the RR batsmen.
“I’ve always believed that Bala is an important member of our team and having him is a great option for a captain. He bowled really well last year and in the first game of this season. We’re really thinking of picking him but we’ve not finalised anything yet.”
KKR received a boost ahead of this game with the arrival of the dashing New Zealand batsman, Brendon McCullum. Gambhir said the Kiwi has recovered fully from his hamstring injury that forced him to miss the first two games.
“He’s fit and raring to go,” the KKR captain said of McCullum. “It’s always good to have options under your sleeves but we’ll go with the 11 player who we think can do the job for us tomorrow.”
A contest within the contest that everyone is waiting to see in the RCB vs KKR match is that between Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine. The two are part of the prolific West Indian contingent in the IPL that has dominated so far in the tournament.
“Sunil knows a lot about Chris and vice a versa. So the contest will be good,” Gambhir admitted. “The West Indians are doing pretty well in this tournament – someone told me that the Man of the Match awards in the first four games were won by West Indians. It’s good to have one in our team. I hope Sunil continues doing what he has for us till now.”
Saurashtra pace bowler, Jaydev Unadkat has been playing in the IPL since 2010. And for the first three years he was part of the Kolkata Knight Riders. This year, the 22-year-old pacer is donning the Royal Challengers Bangalore shade of red and gold.
In his fourth match of the tournament Unadkat finds himself in a strange situation as he prepares to take on his previous team. “It’s going to be special. For the first time I’ll be playing against KKR. Up until now, for me IPL has always been KKR,” Unadkat said on the eve of RCB’s home game against the Knights of Kolkata.
While the young pacer had an enriching experience with KKR of being mentored by Wasim Akram and guided by Brett Lee, he is happy to be in the RCB change room this year, where he has so far got more opportunities to play. While he managed only 11 games in the last three seasons with KKR, this year he has been part of all three matches RCB have played.
“It really boosts my confidence to know that the team management thinks I can do well on the field,” Unadkat said, before going back to the days in IPL 2012 where he spent all but one match on the bench.
“I passed through that phase during the last IPL season with KKR when I didn’t get to play many games. I was just sitting out and working on my strength and bowling. It is difficult, it’s not easy to sit outside and watch others play while waiting for your opportunity,” he admitted.
“But that’s a part and parcel of the game. Here we have some 10-11 fast bowlers in the team and not everyone will play all the games. RCB has been quite good for me till now in that respect.”
“I got the confidence from the captain and the coach and that’s really important for a youngster to come into a new side. I’m happy with the way I’ve done in the games I’ve played so far and I’m looking forward to continuing the same,” said Unadkat.
The left-arm seamer from Porbandar cannot thank his stars enough for the presence of India’s best left-arm pacer around him. Unadkat admitted that he’s been taking all the advantage he can of sharing the dressing room with Zaheer Khan.
“Personally, I have really gained a lot having him around. Right from the first match, I go and speak to him before every match about how I should plan to bowl on a particular wicket and conditions. For a youngster like me, or any other pacer in the team for that matter, his presence is helping,” Unadkat said, before sharing the positive signs of Zaheer recovering from his side strain.
“I don’t know at what recovery stage he is but he’s really working out and training a lot. So, perhaps, he’ll be playing soon,” he said.