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With four wins and five losses under their belt so far,Kings XI Punjab are desperately seeking a couple of wins to sneak their way into the top four. However, their immediate challenge is a rather herculean one, that of beating theChennai Super Kings in their fortress.
CSK have won six games on the bounce now and are sitting pretty at the top of the points table. While the team’s success has come from a collective effort, there are individuals who have pulled more weight than the others. Going by his recent form and the unbelievable ability to turn the game on its head, one of KXIP’s main hurdles to beating CSK is their captain, MS Dhoni.
When KXIP’s coach, Darren Lehmann, came to address the media on the eve of the match, he had no qualms in admitting that Dhoni’s wicket would be the key one. However, he sounded confident of having strong plans to keep the Indian captain quiet.
“He’s a quality player and can take the game away from you,” Lehmann said of Dhoni. “We’ll have to come up with some good plans, which we have. But again, if he hits the ball it’s going to go for a six. We’ve got to limit his scoring opportunities as well as we can and hopefully pick him up early.”
While Dhoni has been finishing CSK’s innings with blistering consistency – in the last match, against Pune Warriors India he slammed 45 off 16 balls – KXIP’s destructive wicketkeeper batsman and captain, Adam Gilchrist’s run with the bat has been so poor that he had to drop himself from the side in KXIP’s last match against Mumbai Indians.
Lehmann said it was Gilchrist’s decision to step down, one that was difficult for him to second. “It is a tough decision to leave a great player out and I’m sure it would have been the same for the Mumbai Indians with Ricky Ponting,” Lehmann said. “Having played with him, coached him and being very good mates with him, makes it even more difficult.
“But it was a decision we all made as a selection panel that he too is a part of. And he was pretty adamant not to play. That’s the sort of guy he is. You’ve got to make those decisions in this format to try and find the right balance and we thought that balance was in dropping him the other night.”
In Gilchrist’s absence, the team’s opening batting combination changed in the last match, as fit-again Shaun Marsh played his first game of IPL 2013. While accepting that lack of a huge opening stand is one of the team’s concerns, Lehmann remained positive of his top-order batsmen’s performance.
“Our powerplays have been quite good to be fair. We always finish with something between 40 and 45. Yes, we’d like our openers to be there even after the first six overs and we’d like better starts. But the boys haven’t meaning to get out; that’s just the way it has gone.
“They’re playing positive brand of cricket. We’ll tinker around until we get the right opening combination. It’s not easy when you chop and change but sometimes, to formulate the right plans against a side like CSK you have to change some things,” the coach said.
The best news for KXIP when their batting is concerned has been the form of David Miller, who struck a brisk half-century against MI to take the team close to chasing down 175. With the top-order struggling, Lehmann didn’t entirely rule out the idea of promoting Miller up the order.
“Maybe, but he’s so good at the role he plays currently – in the last match he batted for around seven-eight overs and played really well (56 off 34). I think he’s getting enough time and he’s really improved his game this year,” he said of the South African batsman.
The Kolkata Knight Riders have arrived in Raipur needing a win to bolster their case for a playoffs spot. Having lost their previous match to the Chennai Super Kings, KKR need to ensure they don’t slip into another losing streak, thereby hampering their chances of qualifying for the latter stages of IPL 2013.
During his pre-match press conference, skipper Gautam Gambhir highlighted the importance of a win for his team over the Delhi Daredevils. He also said that the last thing his side needed was to get into a must-win situation, as opposed to a two-game cushion they have at the moment.
Here are excerpts from Gambhir’s media interaction:
The importance of Wednesday’s game?
It is an important game. What I got to know after the Chennai match was that we need to win five out of our remaining seven games to qualify for the playoffs. And we don’t want to get into a situation where each game is a must-win game. Hopefully, we can try and start the journey Wednesday onwards and show what we are really capable of doing.
The importance of playing well, consistently?
Right now, we have a two-match cushion (to qualify for the playoffs). So, we will try our best to win games and play good cricket. I think, we have played good cricket in patches, and not consistently. So, we hope to play good cricket consistently.
Does KKR have plans for any specific DD players?
We don’t have any strategies to tackle individuals. We will purely try to do well as a team and against the whole opposition, and not just one person.
Does a captain’s job become harder when his team is not performing consistently?
Absolutely, when you are not playing consistent cricket, your job as a captain and leader becomes even more important.
When there have been a lot of ups and downs in the journey, it poses a challenge. You are in a situation where you not only have to lift the entire team, but also lift your own performance. When the team is doing well, you can concentrate on your own game and work on your performance. But the situation we are in, I need to think about my game and most importantly I need to think about the team and how to win a game of cricket.
Is Yusuf Pathan’s form a cause for frustration?
It’s not frustrating (that Pathan is not among the runs). KKR is not about Yusuf Pathan. It’s frustrating when the entire team is not doing well. There will be a situation when certain people will be in good rhythm while others are not. Those who are doing well, need to make it count and do enough for those who are not, because the situation can change very quickly.
At the moment, I am not even thinking about Pathan’s form. The only thing I am thinking about is where KKR are at the moment.
Are bowlers becoming smarter while bowling in the Twenty20 format?
A lot of people are saying that the bowlers have dominated. The bowlers have become much smarter and there is more variety and more innovative fields now.
They know that a batsman will come at them hard, so they have developed ways to tackle this. Now, it’s time for the batsmen to get smarter as well. But certainly, bowlers have become much smarter than they were a couple of seasons back.
Does DD hold an advantage given their recent win at Raipur?
I don’t know if there is such a benefit. Whoever plays better on a particular day wins. When a match starts, both teams begin from zero.