Manish Pandey said Kolkata Knight Riders would look to keep their successful run intact at the business end of the Champions League Twenty20, when they take on Hobart Hurricanes in the semi-final in Hyderabad on Thursday. KKR coach Trevor Bayliss, however, feels the odds are against the Aussies.
IPL champions KKR, who have had a record 13 wins on-the-trot, have been the side to beat this year with their deep batting resources and star spinners Sunil Narine and Piyush Chawla, alongside Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm chinaman bowler. (Gambhir Scores a Century for Record-Breaking KKR)
Pandey himself has been an integral part of the Knight Riders' sensational run and he underlined his importance to the side with an unbeaten 76 in the team's last league game, an emphatic 36-run win against Dolphins in Hyderabad.
However, despite personal and team successes this year, the 25-year-old from Karnataka is not ready to be complacent ahead of the last-four clash.
"This is the business end of the tournament and we have to think about it positively. We would be thinking about all the aspects of the game before that crucial game (the semi-final). We would definitely want to keep winning," Pandey told CLT20.com. (Sunil Narine Reported for Suspect Bowling Action)
Pandey is a big-match player for the Knight Riders and his 50-ball 94 in Bangalore in the IPL final earlier this year is still spoken of highly. Little wonder then that he would be expected to step up again and deliver for Gautam Gambhir's men, who rely on their top-heavy batting line-up to set up big scores for their spinners to defend.
The stylish right-handed batsman insists he is far better prepared now, better prepared than he was before the IPL, having played a lot of top-drawer cricket across the world.
"Since the IPL final, I have been playing a lot of games. I played for India 'A' and we won the championships there (in Australia), we had a domestic T20 tournament in Karnataka and won there as well. There was little time to work on my batting, but during that period but I just wanted to keep my head clear, which I thought would help my batting," Pandey said.
The clash against the Hurricanes could be KKR's biggest test of character and skills yet. With sheer reliance on their spinners, the Knight Riders have bullied their way against other IPL teams and clueless batting sides in the course of this year's CLT20.
KKR coach Trevor Bayliss said he realised the match would be a direct fight between Kolkata's spinners and Hobart's pacers. It is all a question of who turns up better prepared Thursday.
"We are looking forward to it and it's probably a match between a spin oriented team and a pace bowling team. Hobart Hurricanes have some really good players and some explosive batsmen and we have to put our best foot forward to beat them," Bayliss was quoted as saying in the CLT20.com.
However, Bayliss said the advantage would lie with his side, thanks to the number of spinners who could contain attacking batsmen in helpful conditions.