Jacques Kallis will always remain Gautam Gambhir's go-to man in crisis. The 38-year-old South African, who has retired from Test cricket after the India series at home last year, remains a backbone in the Kolkata Knight Riders squad, admits coach Trevor Bayliss. KKR start against defending champions in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Saying that Kallis was the team's rock, Bayliss told www.iplt20.com: "Jacques is a great player and you write players like them off at your own risk. When people think they are down and out, that's when such players rise up to the occasion. He is still as strong as ever with the bat and ball, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't do well in this tournament."
To write off Kallis will only invite trouble. The ability of this former Cricketer of the Year and arguably one of the world's finest all-time best all-rounder was best seen when he struck a century, his 45th, in his last Test innings against India at Durban December-end. (Gambhir banks on bowlers to win matches for KKR)
Bayliss, of course, is not relying entirely on Kallis. (Mumbai take on Kolkata in tournament opener)
"We're very happy with the squad that we have got. We have a number of different quality options depending on the opposition and the type of wicket we play on. All we need to think of is getting the combination right, and hopefully, the 11 guys we pick, play well on the day," Bayliss said. (Gambhir set to become first player to hit 300 4s in T20s)
KKR have bolstered their middle order by buying Robin Uthappa in the February auction. "We have Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and also Shakib (Al Hasan). Yusuf Pathan is still with us. He has been doing well in the Indian domestic circuit, and if he can continue his form, it will be a huge boost for us," the Aussie coach said.
The team management's plan to retain Pathan has a solid logic. The former Indian star was in poor form last season but he still kept the team's faith.
"If there is one format of the game where you can stick with someone who is not scoring as many runs as you'd like, it's T20. It also depends a lot on where the player is batting. If Yusuf bats at No. 6 or 7, 20 off eight or nine balls from him would be just as useful as the 70-80 scored by a top-order batsman.
"Yusuf has often batted lower in the order and he has made those runs for us. His role in this team is that of a finisher, and on a number of occasions, he has performed it quite well."
Analysing KKR skipper, Gautam Gambhir, Bayliss said, "As aggressive and intense as he is on the field, he is a very quiet personality off it. There are many great players who are extremely quiet by nature, but they step on to the field and go in the competition mode."