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Shirin Sadikot in Abu Dhabi 28 April 2014 - 07:50pm IST

No questions on Gambhir’s place: Dahiya

KKR assistant coach says the skipper is their best batsman and they will stick with him

Kolkata Knight Riders have had a mixed start to Pepsi IPL 2014, with two wins and losses each. On Tuesday, they end their UAE leg with a match against Rajasthan Royals.

On the eve of their game, in Abu Dhabi, Vijay Dahiya, KKR’s assistant coach, said a win would put them in a favourable position when they resume the tournament in India.

“It’s our last game here and ideally we’d like to go to India with three wins,” Dahiya said. “Our last game was a close one and I think we should have won it. We have to put that behind us and try to finish this leg strongly.

“A win will be very important because that will allow us to finish this leg in the top-four. No team starts the tournament thinking ‘we’ll win it’. The first target is always to get to last four and then take it from there.”

One of the main reasons for KKR’s inconsistent form so far has been the lack of runs from the bat of Gautam Gambhir, who has managed 0, 0, 0 and 1 in the tournament so far. While admitting the skipper’s poor form is a major concern, Dahiya refuted the idea of his place in the XI being in question.

“If you ask me, Gautam is our best batsman and there are no two ways about it that if your best batsman is not in form, it is a problem for the team. But we know him and we know that he will come back to his best. It will be a different team when he starts scoring runs at the top. 

“There is not single talk about his place in the side. Let’s not forget that he is not only one of our batsmen but also our leader. He has led the team very well and we need him in the mix.”

In the wake of his bad form, Gambhir demoted himself to No. 3 in the last match. Dahiya said he would like to see him continue to open the innings. “Honestly, if you ask me, he is an opener and I would love to see him open the innings. The pressure will be there but what if he comes after two quick wickets have fallen? He’d feel even more pressure,” he said.

With Gambhir nor among runs, the onus falls on Jacques Kallis and Manish Pandey to lend solidity to the KKR innings. Both the batsmen have been scoring runs but not enough to see the innings through. Dahiya said the top-three batsmen should ideally bat out 15 overs.

“In this format 30-plus is as good as 50-plus. However, in close games, a 40-50 run knock goes a long way. In such situations you need somebody to carry on for 20 overs and anchor the innings. The top-three batsmen have to bat for 15 overs; that’s something that hasn’t happened so far for us.”

Another batting worry is the unreliability of Yusuf Pathan. KKR’s assistant coach said his place in the side is being monitored. “You cannot deny the fact that he is not among runs and that is a big concern, for him and the team management. Let’s see if things improve in the next couple of games,” Dahiya said.

While the batting is giving the KKR management sleepless nights, the bowlers have been impressive. Dahiya praised the bowling attack as the team’s strength and described them as real match winners.

“This year our bowling has been our strength,” Dahiya said. “People say that T20 is a batsman’s game but we believe it’s the bowlers who win you matches in this format too. We’re very pleased with the kind of strength we have in our bowling, even on the bench.”

When asked if the team is expected to make a few changes for the RR match, Dahiya answered in the affirmative.

“Yes, we’ve had a look at the wicket and it looks completely different from the one in our last match. This is the wicket where CSK got 205 and KXIP chased it. So, it looks a very good batting wicket. The good thing about our side is that we have options and we can change our playing XI according to the opposition and the wicket. So, there will be a couple of changes.”

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