Despite possessing the same personnel as last year when they won the title, Kolkata Knight Riders have had very modest success in this season's Pepsi IPL. On Sunday (April 28), Manvinder Bisla, who made a 62-ball 91, played the kind of knock he did in the final last year that took Kolkata to the title, but even that wasn't enough as Kolkata lost to Chennai Super Kings by 14 runs.
Despite the losses - Kolkata have won just thrice in nine matches - the one thing that has remained constant is optimism which Trevor Bayliss, the coach, echoed at the post-match press conference. "To look back, chasing 200 and being in the game till the last over was a fantastic effort," he said. "The boys can walk away with their heads held high. If we play like we did tonight, we have a chance (to qualify)."
Time is clearly running out for Kolkata, who now need to win at least six of their remaining seven matches in order to have any chance of progressing through to the qualifiers. "I think last year we won six on a trot somewhere," Bayliss said. "That was more like how we played (tonight) from a batting point of view on a good wicket. If we play the rest of the games in that fashion, we'll win a lot more. Unfortunately we haven't played to that level in the first few games. The boys can take a lot of positives from tonight and if they play with the same confidence, there is no reason why we can't string a lot of wins together."
Kolkata's ploy to put Chennai in backfired. Wriddhiman Saha and Michael Hussey put on 103 for the opening wicket in just 10.1 overs, after which Kolkata were playing catch-up. Bayliss, though, defended the team's decision to field first. "Just looking at the wicket here, it has played a lot better than last year," he said. "And CSK like chasing, so we wanted to upset their rhythm to a certain degree. With the amount of class players in their team, it only needs one or two to get going and if that happens, it will be difficult for any side to beat them."
Kolkata have also been dogged by injuries to a few players at various stages of the tournament, the most significant being Manoj Tiwary, whose absence in the middle order forced the team to field an extra overseas batsman in Brendon McCullum. But Bayliss refused to believe his team's fortunes had been shaped by injuries.
"We've got a decent squad and anyone who comes into the team is capable of doing well," he said. "Every one of the players who played tonight has done well in the past. We're not the only team with injuries, or players missing. That is a part and parcel of the game."