Fearless approach by openers have done wonders: KKR coach Pandit

Kolkata made the right moves by bringing back their two-time winning captain Gautam Gambhir as mentor and later picked the world best left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc to bolster their attack.
KKR chief coach Chandrakant Pandit with Gautam Gambhir.
KKR chief coach Chandrakant Pandit with Gautam Gambhir. Photo | IPL

CHENNAI: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), with 16 points, are at the top of the points table. KKR chief coach Chandrakant Pandit is pleased with the way things have gone so far and insists that his team has no time to relax and should play with the same momentum and become the first team to make it to the playoffs.

"Very happy with the way the boys have performed (to top the table). The team environment is excellent. The dressing room is fantastic and everybody's happy for each other. But still, there are another three matches to go and we have to continue with our momentum, that is more important for us," Pandit told The New Indian Express.

Kolkata, at the start of the season, made the right moves by bringing back their two-time winning captain Gautam Gambhir as mentor and later picked the world best left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc to bolster their attack.

"At the start of the tournament we never thought that we would top the table at the half-way mark. Every team is good in this format and is fighting well in this tournament. Obviously, every team wants to be on top of the table. But how it goes, how it goes with the momentum and how the team is doing, so that is more important. So obviously every team wants to win the trophy. Every team wants to qualify for the playoff. The competition is tough, credit to the boys in the way they have performed consistently and topped the table," said the former India wicketkeeper.

Shreyas Iyer has been leading remarkably well and has shown the ability to extract the best from his players. The players have gelled as unit and have been performing at crucial junctures in turns.

"Shreyas has been doing a wonderful job. In fact, he is a very calm and cool captain. He is always backing the bowlers on the field and he's taking the responsibility. He's becoming the role model for the entire team and he's doing a wonderful job," complimented Pandit.

KKR owes its success to its opening pair of Philip Salt and Sunil Narine. The duo has shown the ability to lay the platform to post good totals and also help chase down the same.

"They have combined really well. Basically, he's (Sunil) has been given a role and he's been fulfilling that role for the team and whatever ability he's got he is putting to effective use. In fact, we are very happy as a team for the opening stands that we have been getting in the first six overs. Salt has been doing a wonderful job. And more than anything else is that every individual has been contributing and taking responsibility that augurs well for our team," explained the coach.

"It is not a surprise for us (Narine's show with the bat). Sunil has been given a particular role and he is excelling in it. And then, you know, one should not forget that he has done well in the past also as a batter. His success as an opener is due to the clarity of the role given to him. So I think he's (Sunil) fulfilling that, the requirement of the team. This little fearless approach has done wonders and that's good," he added.

With Starc, Dushmantha Chameera, Chetan Sakariya, Harshit Rana, Sunil Narine, Varun Chakravarthy, Anukul Roy and Suyash Sharma in the ranks, KKR have variety in their bowling attack. "We have a lot of experience and variety in our attack and that's one of the reasons for our success. The bowlers know their roles and like I said earlier Shreyas has been able to get the best out of them," said the 62-year old.

One of the bowlers who has been delivering for KKR for the last few seasons in a quiet manner is Tamil Nadu's own Varun Chakravarthy.

"You know he's (Varun) has always been a top bowler. We've seen that in the past tournament as well. He's been one of the leading bowlers. And the combination of Sunil and Varun has really worked for us. Let's hope that they continue with this. Because one must understand that it's a very hard task for the bowlers. Whichever bowler you talk about in the IPL from any team, the game and format is such that the bowlers have very little margin of error," said Pandit.

In the business end of the league stage what will KKR strategy be? Will they go for a couple of changes or play the same combination? There were doubts about Salt's availability with the England-Pakistan series beginning on May 22. ''Salt is available. No, we will play the same combination as far as possible. We have to maintain that position till we qualify. And of course then when the second half after the qualifying, how we go forward, that is more important and we will decide at that time. The confidence level is very high in the team. Every individual, every support staff is working behind them, that is a great thing. Not only the players who are playing, but players who are sitting on the bench are also equally enthusiastic and you know helping each other. That creates a happy atmosphere in the dressing room,'' said Pandit.

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